Welty’s A Worn Path: The Strength of Love


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Strength of Love in A Worn Path

 In the story A Worn Path, Eudora Welty shows an old woman living in a time period where racial prejudice is rampant and out of control.  Phoenix Jackson is a grandmother whose only motivation for living is to nurture her grandson back to health.  The strength of love may make people do or say unusual and implausible things.  The central idea of this story is that love can empower someone to over come many life-threatening obstacles.  The idea is shown when an old woman conquers all odds against her to show her everlasting love for her grandson.  Throughout the story Phoenix Jackson has to overcome many types of obstacles that hinder her in her devotion to help her grandson.

 

            One of the main hindrances that stand in her way is the physical aspect of her age as well as the journey.  Phoenix Jackson is very weak and feeble because of her old age so that makes her long journey very strenuous.  Another physical obstacle is that she has to weave and duck under a barbwire fence.  Her feeble body cannot handle such tasks at her age.  The third hindrance she must defeat is that she must cross over a log that lay across a creek.  This requires concentration, skill, and patients.  Even people whom are twice as young as Phoenix have trouble doing such things.  Not many other emotional force other then love is strong enough to give power to an old woman who is living only for one reason.  She realizes that if she were to die then the fate of her grandson would be damned.

 

            There are also mental obstacles that obstruct Phoenix’s journey.  She has to triumph over her weariness because of her old age and her mental fatigue.  As she is walking her mind plays tricks on her, such as the time when she is in the field and mistakes the scarecrow for a dark mysterious figure that she is frightened of.  Another time is when she talks to herself and the animals in the woods.  She tells them not to get in her way because she has a long trip ahead of her.  The love that one person gives to another is never truly appreciated until the recipient realizes what that person has actually done.  The grandson may be too ill or even too young to realize what his grandmother is doing for his safety.

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  The empowerment of love in this situation enables Phoenix to put aside her fatigued mentality and to continue with her expedition. This story enables the reader to believe that no matter what happens, Phoenix will hold her principle to make her journey.  This is the love that almost everyone hopes to gain from someone in their lifetime. 

 

            The social obstacles that encumber her on her journey are perhaps the most difficult embarrassing to overcome.  One of these obstacles is that Phoenix Jackson lives a life of extreme poverty.  She has no money and reluctant to except charity but knows that it is what she must do to survive.  She takes a nickel from the man in the field and she also accepts money from the nurse at the clinic.  Another social obstacle is that she is illiterate.  This makes it very difficult and embarrassing at the clinic because she does not know how to read the prescription of the medicine.  Instead she has to look for a gold emblem of the doctor’s office that helps her recognize the right medicine.  The third social hindrance is once again her old age.  People she encounters on her journey are very condescending towards her and have no respect for her.  The hunter in the field mocks her by pointing a gun to her and laughs at her.  The nurse’s attendant scorns her because she does not feel comfortable talking in the office.  All these social obstacles are as a result of her race.  Phoenix Jackson is a black woman in the 1930’s during the depression.  She has to go through discrimination and humiliation all for the love of her grandson.  When her grandson does realize what his grandmother has done for him it may be too late.  She will probably be dead by then so he will never be able to be thankful for what she has done.  She has saved his life and given him life just as her name says she would.

 

            The title and the name of the character in the book have a lot of significance because they both have so many connotations.  Phoenix being the name of the mythical allusion referring to a bird that is reborn every 500 years to take care of her offspring.  The bird is said at the end of the 500 years to nourish the infant bird to health just as Phoenix Jackson does.  She also has to make this journey over and over in a continuous cycle just as the Phoenix bird.  The title of the story itself has a direct meaning to the life of Phoenix Jackson because it tells about the hardships she went through throughout her life.  The worn path can be directly related to her life because she had to make this journey so many times it becomes worn down and as the path becomes worn down, she becomes worn down physically, mentally, and socially.

 

            Love is probably the strongest emotion anyone can feel because of the unusual affects it has on people’s actions.  Very few things can compel someone to put their lives in chronic danger and put the lives of people whom they care for ahead of their own.  The empowerment of love is so forceful that it may coerce others to pay no heed to pain and suffering.  The story A Worn Path brings forth the readers responsive side because almost everyone has a love for someone in the world and they would probably do anything for love in return.


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