A Worn Path is considered one of Weltys most distinguished and often studied plants of short fiction. Deceptively simple in tone and range, the narrative is structured upon a journey motive that incorporates a rich texture of symbolic significance. Harmonizing to Alfred Appel, “ ‘A Worn Path ‘ base on ballss far beyond its regionalism because of its singular merger of assorted elements of myth and fable, which invest the narrative with a spiritual significance that can be universally felt. ”
Plot and Major Fictional characters
“ A Worn Way ” describes the journey of an aged black adult female named Phoenix Jackson who walks from her place to the metropolis of Natchez to acquire medical specialty for her ill grandson. The landscape as Phoenix perceives it becomes a primary focal point of the vividly elicited narrative ; nature is depicted as alternately beautiful and as an hindrance to Phoenix ‘s advancement. As she walks, she struggles against intense weariness and hapless seeing, every bit good as such obstructions as thorn shrubs and barbed wire. The combined effects of her old age, her hapless vision, and her poetic position of the universe heighten the lyricality and symbolism of the narrative. For illustration, she mistakes a straw man for a dance “ shade ” until she draws near adequate to touch its empty arm. A peculiarly tense episode occurs when she encounters a white huntsman who appears friendly at first, but so makes a arch suggestion that she is likely “ traveling to town to see Santa Claus. ” When he unwittingly drops a Ni, Phoenix distracts him and manages to pick it up, experiencing that she is stealing as she does so. The huntsman all of a sudden points his gun at her, and while he may hold seen her choice up the Ni, it is ill-defined what his existent motive is for this baleful gesture. Phoenix, nevertheless, does non look afraid ; the huntsman lowers his gun and she manages to go on on her manner unhurt and without returning the Ni. Finally making the “ shining ” metropolis of Natchez, Phoenix enters the “ large edifice ” -presumably a hospital-where a nurse inquiries her about her grandson, inquiring if he has died. Phoenix remains queerly quiet at first, as if deaf to the nurse ‘s inquiries. She so apologizes, claiming that her memory had all of a sudden failed her-that for a minute, she could non retrieve why she had made her long journey. The narrative concludes with Phoenix ‘s dear description of her grandson, whose pharynx was injured several old ages ago when he swallowed lye. She declares that he is non dead, receives the medical specialty for him, along with another Ni, with which she decides to purchase him a Christmas present-a “ small windmill. ”
Phoenix Jackson emerges in “ A Worn Path ” as a character who endures ; she is the symbol of doggedness, staying power, and life in the face of adversity and decease. Observers have noted that her sheer fortitude in doing the long journey on pes and entirely points to these qualities, as does the fabulous significance of her name, Phoenix-an Egyptian bird typifying Resurrection. Christian symbolism is besides evident in the narrative. For illustration, the fact that the narrative is set during the Christmas season has led some critics to tie in Phoenix ‘s journey with that of a spiritual pilgrim’s journey ; her selfless concern for her grandson is interpreted as stand foring the true spirit of giving and self-sacrifice. While much of the narrative ‘s substance remainders on the imagistic and symbolic usage of linguistic communication, the action of the secret plan besides shows Phoenix in direct struggle with the outside world-a society run by white people who have small regard or apprehension for her state of affairs. A adult male runing in the wood assumes that she is traveling to town simply “ to see Santa Claus, ” while a nurse dismisses her as a “ charity ” instance and offers small understanding for the predicament of Phoenix ‘s ill grandson. Because the narrative is wholly free of auctorial invasion or explanatory commentary, the images and events that occur in the narrative remain unfastened to a assortment of reader readings.
Critical treatment of “ A Worn Path ” mostly has been concerned with thematic reading of the work, peculiarly the narrative ‘s racial, fabulous, and Christian motifs. Concentrating preponderantly on the narrative ‘s Christian motive, Neil D. Isaacs viewed Phoenix ‘s Christmas journey as a “ spiritual pilgrim’s journey ” with an dry terminal that suggests “ greed, corruptness, cynicism. ” Besides stressing Christian subjects in the work, Sara Treeman pointed to narrative ‘s subject of self-sacrifice, observing that the worn way “ is worn because this is the symbolic journey made by all who are capable of selflessness, of whom Christ is the original. ” The presence of secular mythology in the text has besides been the topic of treatment by such critics as Dan Donlan, who perceived the prominence of the Egyptian myth of the Phoenix in the construction and symbolism of the narrative. Frank Ardolino argued for a conflation of fabulous and Christian readings of the work, demoing how “ along with the Christian motive of metempsychosis, the rhythms of natural imagination presented create the subject of life emerging from decease. ” The racial component of “ A Worn Path ” has besides been a topic of critical treatment. William Jones commented in 1957 that “ [ T ] he chief ground that Miss Welty chose a Negro seems to be that merely a comparatively simple, barbarian person is worthy of stand foring the powerful forces which inspires such love as hers for her grandchild. ” John R. Cooley, in contrast, argued for a broader societal reading of the narrative, knocking the sentiment of the work and impeaching Welty of neglecting to “ develop her racial portrayals with sufficient sensitiveness or deepness. ” Nancy K. Butterworth responded to Cooley ‘s appraisal and others with the observation that “ [ s ] uch polemical demythologizings struggle with Welty ‘s relentless refusal to utilize fiction as a platform, peculiarly for political or sociological issues, every bit good as her downplaying and even disclaimer of racial deductions in her narratives. ”
Cite this page as follows:
“ A Worn Path, Eudora Welty – Introduction. ” Short Story Criticism. Ed. Anna J. Sheets. Vol. 27. Gale Cengage, 1998. eNotes.com. 14 Dec, 2012 & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www.enotes.com/worn-path-essays/worn-path-eudora-welty/introduction