A Worn Path

A Worn Path

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A Worn Path

The story ³A Worn Path,² by Eudora Welty,
tells the journey on foot of an elderly black women,
Phoenix Jackson, from her home to the nearest town.
She makes the journey to go to the doctor to get medicine for
her sick grandson. On the trip, she runs into some
trouble here and there with her dress getting caught
in the underbrush and old age getting to her. She
encounters a big dog that knocks her over, but is soon
rescued by a passing hunter. As she gets to town,
Phoenix asks a woman to her to help her tie her shoes
then, proceeds to the doctor¹s office. When she
arrives there, her memory fails her and she forgets
what her long trip was for. The light comes on and
she remembers her grandson¹s medicine. She gets the
medicine and the money the nurse gives her, goes and
buys a gift for her grandson and sets off for home. In
this story, old age and class alienate Phoenix from

Old age alienates Phoenix from a hunter she
encounters on the trail. Age alienates Phoenix from
the hunter when he assumes her age enables her to
continue her trip to town. The hunter states, ³Why,
that¹s too far! That¹s as far as I walk when I come
out myself and I get something for my trouble... Now
you go home, Granny!² (Welty, 215) By saying the trip
is too far, the hunter shows he does not believe
Phoenix can make it to town due her elderly age. When
he says ³... and I get something for my trouble²
(Welty, 215), the hunter infers that he feels Phoenix
has no business being out there making the long trip,
and there is no reason good enough for her to be
venturing that far. The hunter alienates Phoenix
because her age by telling her the trip is too far and
calling her Granny.

Class alienates Phoenix Jackson from the attendants
in the doctor¹s office. As Phoenix walks in the door
one attendant says, ³A charity case, I suppose²
(Welty, 216). Based on appearance alone, the
attendant makes the assumption that she was a charity
case. ³A poignant scene at the story¹s close confirms
the reader¹s suspicion of Phoenix¹s extreme
poverty...² (Magill, 2432). This scene proves to the
reader Phoenix is not very high class. She is
automatically assumed to be a charity case and then
asked what was wrong with her, implying she does not
look very good. Aldridge writes, ³[In Welty¹s
stories] [t]here are members of racial minorities, the

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economically oppressed, shut-ins, and various
individuals in the grip of social forces... In the
beautiful story, ŒA Worn Path,¹ the nurse at the
clinic becomes aware of a barrier ... of which she is
unable to explain, between herself and Grandma, an old
Negro woman²(507). This barrier between them is a
social barrier that alienates Phoenix from the
attendants. Phoenix being from a lower class
alienates her from the attendants.

Age and class alienate Phoenix from herself. The
trip through the woods was not an easy task for
Phoenix. Phoenix says, ³Seems like there is chains
about my feet, time I get this far² (Welty, 213). She
has a hard time making this trip due to her age.
Magill writes, ³The frail old woman, called Phoenix,
travels slowly and painfully through a sometimes
hostile landscape...² (2432) Phoenix¹s age prohibits
her from easily making her journey that is so dear to
her through the woods. The trip makes her so tired
she forgets the point of the whole trip. As she gets
to the doctor¹s office a ³fixed and ceremonial
stiffness² came over her body (Welty, 216). Finally
the light flickers on and Phoenix remembers why she
made the journey into town. Her memory is slowly
fading with her age. Class and age alienate Phoenix
from herself.

In Phoenix¹s encounter with the hunter, trip into the
woods and to the doctor¹s office, and memory loss ,
age and class alienate her from society.


Aldridge, John W. Critiques and Essays on Modern
Fiction 1920-1951. New York:The Ronald Press Company,

Magill, Frank N. ³Eudora Welty.² Critical Survey of
Short Story Fiction. California: Salem Press, 1993,

Welty, Eudora. ³A Worn Path.² Literature for
Composition. 5th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet et al. New
York: Longman, 2000
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