A Worn Path


The Journey of Life
As I began to read this short story about a painful and tedious trek an aged grandmother endures she has made for the last three or four years to the city with one intention in mind, to get a medicine for her chronically ill grandson. On a cold December day she repeats the same journey again. As we read, it appears to be about a long journey the woman has made throughout the entire story, but by carefully examining the theme, it tells us that there is a greater message than just a long trek. In the story "A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty, an old woman whose human spirit is full of dedication, dignity and high morale overcomes tremendous obstacles of life in the name of love.
Phoenix Jackson is the protagonist of the story who is an African- American woman, old and probably disabled. As one person says in the story "You must be hundreds years"(Welty, p365) addressing Phoenix. All of these characteristics are the evidence that the journey is not going to be easy, but her faith in God and strong relation with nature accommodate her on the way. She understands nature by designating it as a "guardian" when her dress gets caught in the bush. "Thorns doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass"(Welty, p364), says Phoenix while taking her dress carefully out of the bush. When she has difficult times such as fatigue and the fall in the bush, she addresses to God by reaching her hand to Him, but nothing reached down to her. It is not her time to leave the Earth yet, so God sends her a hunter, instead, for help. With her belief in God, her goal to finish her journey and her love for her grandson, she conquers all obstacles on the way.
The most difficult obstacle on her way is a young white man who actually helps her stand up when she falls, but he still poses as a great danger to her because of his prejudiced beliefs against black people. Eudora Welty creates two protagonists of opposite race for the purpose of showing racial discrimination in society. By meeting Phoenix and the hunter can get into societal conflict if Phoenix becomes aggressive against his attitude. Yet, she avoids any verbal and physical confrontations and still manages to get even in the game. It all starts when she falls down in the bush and can not stand up on her own. The young, white hunter finally finds her and helps her to stand up in a very rough way. As Eudora Welty describes the event, the hunter "lifted her up, gave her a swing in the air, and set her down"(p.365). This behavior illustrates that the hunter wants to show off his strength from being young, and power from being white. The hunter?s actions to Phoenix and conversation with her express his rudeness toward the old woman. He calls her "Granny" with sarcasm in his voice showing his ignorant way of talking to the old woman who deserves respect despite her race. Yet, Phoenix takes an opposition and keeps her conversation sensitive with sarcasm in her words. "Yes, sir" or "mister" are pronounced in a way as if she abhors his ethical standards. The hunter may believe that he is the master of the whole scene, but in reality, he has no control over Phoenix, and he even plays by her rules. She takes over the "contest" for power without the hunter?s knowledge.
In the beginning of the century hardly any crime was justified by society, especially if it was committed by a person of a minority group. By stealing five cents from the hunter, Phoenix risks her life. She distracts him with a black dog long enough for her to pick up the nickel and put it in her pocket. The hunter who finally has a chance to exhibit his superiority rushes to get rid of the black dog. Even though the hunter is distracted by his challenge, if he catches Phoenix stealing, she may become a substitute for that black dog. Yet, Phoenix believes that her actions are excusable by her necessity, which refers to financial needs as well as her love and care for her grandson. When the hunter and Phoenix go their separate ways, she sees a