In "A Worn Path", a short story by Eudora Welty, the main character, an old colored woman named Phoenix, slowly but surely makes her way down a "worn path" through the woods. Throughout her journey, she runs into many obstacles such as a thorny bush and a hunter. She overcomes these obstacles and continues with her travels. She finally reaches her destination, the doctor’s office, where she gets medicine for her sick grandson back home. Many critics have speculated that this short story represents the love a grandmother shows for her grandson. Others say this story represents life and death, where Phoenix represents an immortal figure. Dennis J. Sykes disagrees with the other critics by saying, "A parallel exists between the journey described and the plight of the Southern blacks after the Civil War" (Sykes). Ultimately, Eudora Welty demonstrates how blacks have been persecuted in a white world.
The title, "A Worn Path," is not only the actual path Phoenix travels throughout the story, but it also stands for the road blacks have walked on in order to reach freedom. Slaves had to walk many paths in order to escape their owners and the paths led to the freedom away from their plantations. Many slaves escaped plantations by walking all day and all night in wretched
conditions just so they could achieve freedom. The title is the first of many subtle symbols
Eudora Welty uses to demonstrate the hardships blacks have been through to reach equality.
Welty uses her main character, Phoenix, to portray colored people who represent the fight for freedom. When Phoenix is described in the beginning, she is wearing a “red rag” and a “dark striped” dress (Welty 212). The red rag represents...
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...ation. As Phoenix continues down her path, she runs into many hindrances that must be overcome. Sykes believes“Phoenix [considers racial] conflicts are just stones in the road, obstacles in the path” (np). Eudora Welty writes this story to tell of the maltreatment of blacks and to bring this issue into the light. She uses subtle and obvious symbols to prove how blacks have been treated throughout life and how many have just considered the obstacles in their path of life just like pebbles they need to pass on the road.
Sykes, Dennis J. “Welty’s The Worn Path.” Explicator 56.3 (1998, Spring): 151-153. Literature
Resource Center. Gale. Farragut High School. 4 Sept. 2008 http://go.gale.group.com
Welty, Eudora. “A Worn Path.” Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. Eds. Thomas
R. Arp and Greg Johnson. Boston: Thomas Wadsworth, 2006. 212-219.
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