Research Paper: "A Worn Path," by Eudora Welty

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[. . .] " Likewise putting some light on the Christian themes in the work, Sara Treeman gave reference to the story's theme of basically self-sacrifice, making the point that the worn path "is worn for the reason that this is the symbolic journey created by everyone who are capable of self-sacrifice, of whom Christ is the archetype." (Bartel) The presence of secular mythology in the text has also been the subject of discussion by such critics as Dan Donlan, who perceived the prominence of the Egyptian myth of the Phoenix in the structure and symbolism of the story. A man named Frank Ardolino came forward making the argument for a conflation of Christian and mythological interpretations of the work, displaying how "alongside with the Christian themes of reawakening, the sequences of natural imagery shown in order make the theme of life coming from death." Another interesting theme in A Worn Path" is the racial element which also has been a subject of critical debate. William Jones made a comment in 1957 making the point that "the key motive that Miss Welty picked a Negro appears to be that merely a somewhat simple, remote individual is well-intentioned of demonstrating the influential forces which are inspiring a lot of things that are within the poem such as the love as hers that they have for her grandchild."

John R. Cooley, in difference, reasoned for a wider social reading of the story, giving a lot of criticism to the sentiment of the work and blaming Welty of not doing a good job at all with "developing her racial portraits with good enough sensitivity or any kind of deepness." Nancy K. Butterworth answered to Cooley's calculation and others with the observation that "Welty's persistent rejection to use fiction as a stage, predominantly for political or sociological matters, in addition to her give a lower profile and even denial of racial inferences in her stories."

Symbolism

Throughout the way of her journey, Phoenix at different times is visited a lot of times by dreams. On one occasion, a boy appears to her proposing a part of marble cake; later, flat on her back and wedged all the way in some ditch, another dream comes her way. Each time, when she throws her hand out, nothing can be found. There is not any marble cake for her either, and nobody is standing right there to grab her hand and to help her come out of the ditch. It is obvious that the marble cake appears to be symbolic of the whites and blacks trying to get along as one-- to merge -- in the south during the 1930s and 1940s. also, Phoenix throws her hand out a couple of times, first to accept the cake and then to attain aid getting up, and both times, there is not anything that can be seen -- the vision of racial harmony is not all the way realized, however Phoenix retains reaching for it.

When she is "discovered" by a white hunter, he is condescending, and even though he aids her out of the ditch, he then belittles her mission: "Why that's way too far!" he exclaims, "This is as far as I walk when I come out myself, and I get something for what I am going through." As if an old black woman has no drive for walking to town. "Granny, move on along home!" he says. Later, chuckling, "I know you old colored people! You wouldn't even think about missing going to town just to see Santa Claus!" (Wiedemann) The hunter likewise scoffs her with his gun, indicating it straight at her. It is virtually as if he is making sure that she know her place in the white world by using humor such as in a threatening gesture.

Tone and Images

Furthermore to the location, the name of Phoenix Jackson has symbolism. Barnhisel makes the point that "Phoenix Jackson's name is considered to be a suggestion to a mythical bird recognized as the 'phoenix'." Now, this bird's home is out in the desert and lives for something like 500-600 years. This bird starts to set itself on fire, to come up again from its own ruins (Barnhisel). This represents immortality. There are some religions essentially believe in coming up again, just like Christ. As stated by Rachel Lister, Welty defines Phoenix as a private little bird. Also, Lister makes the point that "some [birds] feature conspicuously in the story; some represent the delicacy of Phoenix and her grandson and others are more menacing and appear to signal death." However, in the story, Phoenix sees a bob-white "pushed" in the hunter's bag, "its beak bent severely to display it was not alive (Welty 33). This image hesitates backwards and forwards.

Contemporary World View

Welty's "A Worn Path" was published sometime 1941, but it does not mean that it is not relevant in today's society. In our society today, there is a lot of racism that still goes on just like it was in the book. Even though a lot of it is more subtle than it was during the time of the book. Eudora Welty subtly exclaims race and racism into her story and it is quite obvious. She does this without ever being didactic, which is much like it is interjected in the contemporary society of today. Welty finds a way to forces her reader to have some sort of sympathy with Phoenix Jackson, not just as a frail but strong-minded old woman, but as representation of rising above the additional burdens and effects that historical and current racism remain to present.

It is interesting because Welty manages to keep the reader aware of race as the story builds. It parallels with the contemporary society today because this society is still struggling with the disrespect that Phoenix was going through many years ago. Phoenix manages to speak to the plants and animals and plants as she goes. For example, Phoenix is never given the self-respect of her own name; she is not spoken to as even Phoenix or Mrs. Jackson. This is sort of the same today because African-Americans are not accepted as who they are and are constantly being called out of their name. For instance, in the story, the white individuals she comes in contact with, even the strangers, call her "Granny," or "Grandma" and clearly not using the term out of affection but as an pointer of her social rank. Likewise, the hunter points his gun at her to threaten her for the reason that he assumes that right. Even in today's society this information is very much relevant because this goes on in today's society.

The insinuation is that Phoenix has seen a lot of racial violence throughout her lifetime. Lastly, the attendant in the clinic treats Phoenix very rudely, calling her "Grandma," arranging her to speak up, sprinkling her with questions, and challenging to recognize if she is tone-deaf (Piwinski). Violence is not uncommon to blacks even today because of the racism much like it was for phoenix. Even today the rise of racial violence is on the rise and not just with African-Americans but with other minorities as well. Provided the long custom of Southern politeness, one can undertake that a white woman -- who is considered to be some kind of social equal -- would not have been even treated in this way. Phoenix, who was an old black woman, was not afforded the common politeness.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is clear that things such as symbolism in "A Worn Path" has some huge meaning and various kinds of themes that communicate in society today. They show us the way diverse kinds of individuals are treated and provides a real-life picture of what life could possibly be if things were different. Also, the worn path talked about in the story shows the trials and tribulations that can occur in things occurring every day. Also, the description of Phoenix Jackson is labelled as being a usual colored woman living her life. During the course of the story, Jackson agonizes through a lot of cases, and at times, gets the need to just do not even try and give up. This account is all about looking way past those fears and brawls to keep moving onward in life. And irrespective of the glaze that is used and brought out in the open by Welty's genuine literary desire. Truth is true nevertheless of where it is established; and Eudora Welty discovers it in herself, her setting and finally in the experience and heart of her readers -- irrespective of age, education, socio-economic circumstances. Welty's accounts are truth, they are worldwide -- they are legendary.

Works Cited

Ascher, Barbara Lazear with Welty, Eudora. "A Visit with Eudora Welty,." The Yale Review (2004): 147-53.

Bartel, Roland. "LIFE AND DEATH IN… [END OF PREVIEW]

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""A Worn Path," by Eudora Welty."  Essaytown.com.  June 30, 2014.  Accessed August 20, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/worn-path-eudora-welty/2604371.