Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" is a story that emphasizes the natural symbolism of the
surroundings. The main character in the story, Phoenix Jackson, is an old black woman who
seeks out to find medicine for her sick nephew. This story contains a motif, which is the
continuous walking of Phoenix Jackson throughout her journey. She lives in the pinewoods
and faces the challenging experience of walking through the snowy, frozen earth to get to
the hospital in the city of Natchez. Phoenix Jackson is a very caring person, and is in
love with life. Although she is very old, it seems that she has many years ahead of her.
Eudora Welty brings realism into the story describing the realities of being old.
It is Christmas, and Phoenix Jackson has to head out to the city to obtain the medicine
for her nephew. A long time ago, her nephew swallowed lye that burned his throat, and the
medicine is the only thing that relieves his pain. The woods are filled with pine trees
that cast dark shadows throughout the terrain. The darkness that surrounds Phoenix is the
total opposite of her. She is a poor woman, but is very neat and tidy. She appreciates
the small things in life and respects what she has. Although she is old, she has
extremely dark hair, wears a red bandana, and has much "life" within her:
Her skin had a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles and as though a whole
little tree stood in the middle of her forehead, but a golden color ran underneath, and the two knobs of her cheeks were illumined by a yellow burning under
the bark. (87)
It is almost as if she is a part of nature herself, when Eudora Welty describes her as
having a tree within her forehead. ...
... middle of paper ...
...ling to travel through the rugged pinewoods to
get the medicine that cures his illness. All of the things included in the forest
represent natural symbolism that is directly related to the realism of Phoenix Jackson.
The windmill is a perfect representation of the circle of life, and Phoenix has many more
years to live. When Phoenix dies, her spirit of the Phoenix bird will live on in her
nephew who most likely will live a long, happy life.
Hicks, Granville. "Eudora Welty." Critical Essays on Eudora Welty. Ed. W. Craig Turner and Lee Emling Harding. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1989. 259-67.
Howard, Zelma Turner. The Rhetoric of Eudora Welty's Short Stories. Jackson, Miss.: University and College Press of Mississippi, 1973.
Welty, Eudora. "A Worn Path." The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980. 142-49.
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