“A Worn Path” Eudora Welty is a famous southern writer who started her career during the Great Depression. In many cases, aspects of an author’s stories usually come from their own experiences or are directly reflected by what is going on in the world at that time. It is evident in her short story “A Worn Path” that it is set during times of economic hardship. In this story the main character Phoenix Jackson, “Grandma”, goes on a journey that takes her through the dark pine shadows of the woods, through a withered cotton fields and fields of dead corn, down a ravine and through swampy meadows. Paragraphs 1, 17, 21, 31) This long, vigorous journey will be all worth it because Phoenix is traveling to the nearest city to obtain medication for her sick grandson. The determination of this elderly woman is inspiring in many ways. She is willing to endure the harsh winter weather and go the distance to try and help her grandson. In the story “A Worn Path” Phoenix Jackson is the sole main character. There are a few very minor characters in the story: including the Hunter, the Doctor and the doctor’s assistant. It is made very clear from the beginning of the story that Phoenix is an elderly black woman; the author describes her appearance in great detail. “Her eyes were blue with age. 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 illuminated by a yellow burning under the dark. Under the rag her hair came down on her neck in the frailest of ringlets, still black, and with an odor like copper. (Paragraph 2) The author draws a clear picture of Phoenix Jackson’s appearance with this very descriptive paragraph. Not only are we able to tell that she is elderly by the author’s description of her appearance, we can also tell by how slowly she moves and the fact that she needs a cane. Another way it is apparent that she is elderly is the way that other characters in the story react to her; for example, when the Hunter sees her wandering through the woods he yells out “Well, Granny! What are you doing there? ” (Paragraph 38) And a final example is when the doctor’s assistant refers to her as “Grandma” in paragraph 65. Throughout the story there are many clues that give away Phoenix’s economic status. The description of her clothing is one example. “She wore a dark striped dress reaching down to her shoe tops, and an equally long apron of bleached sugar sacks, with a full pocket: neat and tidy, but every time she took a step she might have fallen over her shoelaces, which dragged from her unlaced shoes. ” (Paragraph 2) The fact that she has to use bleached sugar sacks as an apron proves that she did not have money to buy nice things or even buy a real apron, she had to make her own. There could be two possible reasons that her shoes were not tied, one reason could be that she is too old to bend over and tie them, or the other could be that she just didn’t know how to tie her own shoes. One final example is the fact that she uses an umbrella as a cane. The dialogue in the story gives the impression that Phoenix was not formally educated. She has the ability to communicate with others, but her use of grammar is incorrect. While conversing with the Hunter, one of her responses is “No sir, I goin to town. ” (Paragraph 45) This gives a clear example of her use of language and incorrect use of grammar. Although she may not always say the right thing, Phoenix is very observant of her surroundings. While talking to the Hunter, she notices that he drops a nickel. She quickly causes a distraction so that he would not notice what he had done. Once the Hunter continued on his path, she bends down to pick up the nickel and says “God watching me the whole time. I come to stealing. ” (Paragraph 54) In her old age, she is still as sharp as a tack, and has enough sense to cause a distraction in order to get the nickel that the Hunter had unknowingly dropped. In many ways the “worn path” that Phoenix Jackson takes to the city so often is symbolic to her life. It is a long, difficult journey that she is very familiar with. She knows all of the twists and turns of the path, the ups and downs and she knows exactly where to go to reach her destination. The determination that this woman has throughout the whole story is remarkable. She endures so much, especially for her age. Phoenix Jackson is a fascinating and inspiring woman.
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