Eudora Welty’s A Worn Path: Phoenix’s Trip to the Local Town
The short story “The Worn Path” written by Eudora Welty is about an old Black woman’s trip into to the local town. The woman’s name is Phoenix and she is going to town to get medicine for her sick grandson. However, as she travels along the path Phoenix encounters several obstacles that show that along with her old age and deteriorating body her mind is slipping away from her as well. Phoenix is an elderly black woman who is charged with the task of taking the long trip through the woods and in to town.
She is the only caretaker for her grandson and even though her senses and her body are starting to fail her she is still willing to take the risk. In the first part of the story Phoenix gets caught up in a thorn bush and it is not clear at first why she allowed herself to get as close to the bush as she did, but you are eventually brought to realize that her eyes are the betrayer. “I in the thorny bush,” she said. Thorns you doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass, no sir. Old eyes thought you was a pretty little green bush” (1).
This is just one of many examples of how her body along with her senses is slowly drifting away from her. While Phoenix is walking along on her journey in to the town she stops to take a break on the bank. Even though she does not chose to take a nap she still somehow manages to drift off into what some may consider and dream, or a warped sense of reality. “She did not dare to close her eyes, and when a little boy brought her a plate with a slice of marble-cake on it she spoke to him. “ That would be acceptable,” she said.
But when she went to take it there was just her own hand in the air” (2). It seems that the stresses of the journey along with the deteoration of her body due to old age are taking a toll on Phoenix. As Phoenix is walking through a field she spots a figure in the distance that appears to be dancing in the wind. The first thought that comes to her mind is that it is either a man or a ghost but she soon realizes that it is neither of those things. It appears that her warped sense of reality leads her to consider unrealistic things over rationality and disregard reason. Ghost,” she said sharply. “Who be you the ghost of? For I have heard of nary death close by” (2). Phoenix mind along with her eyes are constantly playing tricks on her and I think she is slowly realizing that she can no longer trust herself. After a long and challenging trip through the woods, Phoenix finally makes it into town to get medicine for her grandson. But upon arriving at the doctor’s office she completely forgets why she came. Through the trip Phoenix has been struggling to make it both mentally and physically.
It appears that her age has finally caught up to her, however her dedication to her grandson still manages to overpower the unfortunate consequences of old age. “My grandson, it was my memory had left me. There I sat and forgot why I made my long trip” (5). Even though, Phoenix is old and her health is fading just as fast as her mind. Her dedication to her grandson in the end is the one thing that is able to get her through and keep her in touch with reality. She is a woman who may not always be the most physically and mentally capable still manages to have the tenacity and grit needed to make it through her hard life.