"A Worn Path" is recognized as one of Welty's most illustrious and often studied works of what is considered to be short fiction. Illusorily simple in scope and tone and, the story is made to be very structured upon a journey theme that joins a rich worth of figurative significance. As stated by Alfred Appel, "A Worn Path' goes way beyond its decentralization for the reason that of its astonishing fusion of many basics of myth and legend, which participate the story with a religious meaning that can be generally felt."
Major Characters and Plot
"A Worn Path" is a poem that talks about describes the voyage of an elderly black woman who goes by the name of Phoenix Jackson. She is a woman that walks from her home to the city of Natchez. Phoenix does this because she wants to get medicine for her sick grandson. The scenery as Phoenix observes it turn out to be a primary emphasis of the vividly suggested story telling; nature is shown as interchangeably beautiful and as an impairment to Phoenix's development. As she walks, she starts struggling against penetrating weakness and poor vision, in addition to such obstacles as barbed wire and thorn bushes. The mutual properties of her poor vision, her old age, and her poetic interpretation of the world intensify the lyricism and symbolism of the story. For instance, for a dancing "ghost" she mistakes a scarecrow until she comes close enough to touch its sleeve which is empty. A mainly tense episode happens when she comes in contact with a white hunter who at first appears friendly, but then makes a patronizing suggestion that she is almost certainly "leaving for town to see Santa Claus." When he unintentionally drops a nickel, Phoenix sidetracks him and achieves in picking it up, believing that she is thieving as she normally does so.
The hunter abruptly points his gun at her, and even though he may have seen her pick up the nickel, it is uncertain what his real incentive is for this threatening sign. Phoenix, on the other hand, has no fear in her at all; the hunter starts bringing the gun down lower and she goes on to continue on her way uninjured and without bringing the nickel. As a final point getting closer to the "shining" city of Natchez, Phoenix walks into the "huge building" -- seemingly a hospital -- where a nurse starts asking her questions about her grandson, enquiring if he has died or not.
At first, Phoenix remains strangely quiet, as if she has gone deaf to the nurse's queries. She then starts making some apologizes, claiming that her memory had all of a sudden failed her -- that for an instant, she could not recollect why she had even decided to make her long journey in the first place. The story concludes with Phoenix's heartfelt account of her grandson, whose throat was wounded numerous years ago when he absorbed some lye. Phoenix announces that he is not dead, obtains the medicine for him, beside with another nickel, with which she chooses to purchase him a Christmas gift -- a "little windmill."
In "A Worn Path," Phoenix Jackson arises as a character who sustains; she is considered to be the symbol of stamina, perseverance, and life in the facade of death and hardship. Commentators have been making the notation that her pure strength in pursuing the long journey alone and on foot really does point to these qualities, as does the mythical inference of her name, for instance, when it comes to Phoenix -- an Egyptian bird representing revival. Christian symbolism is moreover obvious in the narrative. For instance, the fact that the story is set all through the Christmas season has guided a lot of critics to connect Phoenix's voyage with that of a pilgrimage that has some kind of religious theme to it; her selfless worry for her grandson is understood as demonstrating the self-sacrifice and true spirit of giving. Even though much of the story's element rests on the symbolic and imagistic use of language, the action of the plot likewise displays Phoenix in straight encounter with the outside world -- a civilization run by white individuals who have little respect or understanding for her condition. A man that goes around hunting in the forest assumes that she is going to town merely "to see Santa Claus," while a nurse dismisses her as a "charity" case and offers little sympathy for the plight of Phoenix's sick grandson. Because the story is completely free of authorial intrusion or explanatory commentary, the images and events that happen in the narrative remain open to an assortment of reader clarifications.
Other themes of "A Worn Path" can likewise be understood in the modern day world these days are lie, duty and guilt. Lie is presented both by the hunter and Phoenix Jackson. The hunter lied to Phoenix in regards not having any kind of money, and Phoenix lied, in a sense, by taking the coin that had dropped out of the hunter's pocket (Welty 55). During this scene guilt was displayed by Phoenix right away and soon as she believed herself well-meant to be shot just for saying "No, sir, I seen a lot go off closer by, in my day, and for less than what I done (Welty 57). On the other hand, the hunter did not show any kind of guilt for his earlier act of aiming the gun at Phoenix -- an act that should have provoked fault. One more instance where guilt was revealed was when the clinic attendant decided to hand Phoenix another coin; this appears to be her way of recompensing an earlier aggressive statement "Can you hear? Are you deaf?" To Phoenix (Welty 59). The person act of giving out the nickel likewise displays "obligation." In paragraph 93, she makes the point, "Grandma, its Christmas time," This only statement is sufficient to tell us that her way of doing things was not powered by love but by "obligation" ever since Christmas is thought to be a time of giving a gift. The same can be understood with the woman who knotted Phoenix's bootlaces -- because of duty in regards to Christmas season instead of sincere concern for the aged (Welty 64).
With all that being said, it is clear that the main theme of the story would have to be endurance. Also, Jackson's name itself signifies rebirth, and coming up out from the flames. In spite of her age and clear infirmity she makes the hard walk alongside the path, and none of the difficulties in her way are able to stop her journey. Even though sometimes reliant on aid from others she is established to keep going. Also, her chat with the nurse at the end, and other signs, make it obvious that she has made this trip numerous times and proposes to keep doing so as long as needed.
Courage is another theme that could be used all through the poem. It is clear that Phoenix's courage and true assistance are emphasized by her happenstances with the young hunter and the clinic workers. When the hunter belittles her and boasts of himself for the reason that he walks to the extent that she does when he searches little birds, with which Phoenix associates her grandson, for the reason that he is able to do things like order his dog to run off the weird dog that has scared her, and since he has a rifle he was able to point at her, the reader sees the righter courage of her heart -- not simply in her absence of fear of the gun nonetheless in her entire journey also. The hunter's courage derives from his tools and youthful foolishness that he has. When the clinic workers start reminding her twice that hers is seen more as a charity case, anticipating gratitude for what they provide, they contrast abruptly with Phoenix who dreams of and joys in bringing her grandson joy and comfort. In oncoming true charity, in which love instead of self-praise is the reason, Phoenix attains true courage. However, In Phoenix, Welty offers an epitome of goodness.
Out of all the themes, love appears to be the most critical theme. It appears that Phoenix was certainly a woman that was of great sacrifice. Even though quite old and suffering from illnesses, Phoenix Jackson frequently walks a long distance to get medication for her grandchild. She makes the trip, even in cold weather, when the frozen earth is slick. Her journey -- the worn path she trails -- proves her love for the child.
Critical conversation of "A Worn Path" largely has been immersed with thematic interpretation of the work, and most of this was particularly involving the story's Christian motifs mythological, and racial situations. Putting the emphasis mainly on the story's Christian motifs, one critic named Neil D. Isaacs…