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A Worn Path: Structure Essay


"A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty is a short story about an elderly woman named Phoenix Jackson. She is not only an elder, but brittle and lonely as well. For a good portion of the story, Phoenix is making a journey into town to find medicine for her sick grandson. Although she encounters many hardships on the way, she never gives up because she is on a mission to help the one she loves.

I believe the conflict in the story is an internal one. I think it is the conflict between the old woman's will power and Mother Nature. She encounters many obstacles that would influence most people to give up but she has motivation to get her task done. These encounters include a bush catching onto her dress, a scarecrow frightening her and discouragement from a white man. She also had to climb hills, cross streams and crawl under barbed wire fences which is certainly not an easy task for an elderly woman. If I was forced to deal with these obstacles I know that I would have turned around but her will power was too strong to let Mother Nature win.

I believe that the climax is when Phoenix arrives at the town. "All right. The doctor said as long as you came to get it, you could have it." At this point I felt a huge sigh of relief because the conflict had officially been solved. Phoenix made a journey to get medicine that was necessary for her grandson and she finally got it! It is as though all of her hard work paid off in the end and as the reader I can feel the emotions of the elder woman.

Although I feel as though there are many literary elements throughout this short story such as characterization and theme, I also feel as though symbolism is very important as well. First of all, I believe that the name Phoenix in itself is symbolic for the type of person the old woman really is. A Phoenix is a mythological creature who dies in fire and rises from ashes only to be stronger. It is as though all of these hardships only make the old woman more determined to complete her journey successfully. She talks herself through the obstacles that she is facing to give herself strength. For example , she says to herself "I wasn't as old as I thought" meaning that she surprises herself with the tasks she is completed such as mounting a log. Through Phoenix the audience can see that dedication and will power equal success and I believe that this is the implied view of life and conduct (DiYanni, 85) by the author. I have abstracted this from the details of the characters and actions throughout the story.

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