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Determination of Love in A Worn Path Essay


Determination of Love

Reading into the story A Worn Path the themes of responsibility and dedication, shame, awakening, and racism are throughout the story and are supported through the characters, symbolism, setting, and conflict. The theme is not blatantly said, but is shown through conversations, actions, and descriptions in the story. Each character has a specific role to play and gives a great deal of support to the theme. The author uses several symbolisms that help trigger the imagination and give a mental picture. The conflict she faces on her journey shows her determination to achieve her goal. The storys setting is demonstrated with every step she takes and allows you to visualize, sympathize, and form opinions. Eudora Welty has written this story in the third person with a limited omniscient point of view allowing you to become a part of it.

Responsibility and dedication is shown throughout this story by the determination of Phoenix to reach the nurse for the medication. The reason she has this responsibility is because she is the only one left to care for her grandson. Phoenix said We is the only two left in the world. (Welty, 1941) (pg. 228 ) We can see this determination even stronger when it is said that her eyesight is poor, she has a hard time walking and lapses in memory. Even with these barriers she still makes the journey. The nurse also shows responsibility to Phoenix and her grandson by making sure she gets this medication when Phoenix arrives. A small undertone is shame in the story when Phoenix picks up the nickel that has fallen out of the hunters pocket. She said to the hunter while he was holding a gun up to her No, Sir, I seen plenty go off closer by, in my day, and for far less than what I have done. (Welty, 1941) (pg. 226) This sentence is her way of admitting the shame she feels for taking the money. The themes of awakening and racism are prevalent through the characters.

There is a feeling of awakening or rebirth in the story. The author shows this by naming the main character Phoenix. The word phoenix is defined as a mythical bird of great beauty fabled to live 500 or 600 years in the Arabian wilderness, to burn itself on a funeral pyre, and to rise from its ashes in the freshness of youth and live through another cycle of years: often an emblem of immortality or of reborn idealism or hope. (, n.d). When the nurse reveals that she has made this journey for years, Phoenix must awaken to take this long journey. There is racism that is portrayed. The author has let us know that the hunter is a white man. The hunter also refers to Phoenix as an old black woman. She refers to the hunter as mister during their conversation showing he is superior to her. The hunter also points a gun at her asking her if she is afraid. The attendant and the nurse also support the claim of racism in the manor they talk to her. When she comes through the door the attendant has a matter of fact tone to her voice and demanding information. The nurse also speaks to Phoenix in this manor letting her know there is no time to be wasted on her and she must answer her questions so she can be on her way. The tone that is carried out through the story is represented by Symbolism, setting, and conflict.

Welty uses a mythical approach when she named the main character Phoenix. She describes the beginning of her journey as walking through the pinewoods. Pine trees symbolize immorality which coincides with an old black woman that has loss of memory, needs a cane, and unable to see very well. Winter is the season this story took place and signifies death, stagnation, and sleep. Her grandsons life is at risk because of health problems with being able to eat and breathe due to swallowing lye. Phoenix herself is at an age where death can occur at any time. The author uses many symbols to describe Phoenix. The color of her skin Gold (perfection), yellow (decay and age), and her head dress is described as red meaning passion and anger. The use of these symbols all coincide with what the author wants to portray. There is much conflict on Phoenixs journey Welty tells this through the troubles she encounters on her way. Her ages provides a challenge, the sticker bush she encounters, the log she must climb over, the dog, and the hunter are just a few ways she shows conflict in the story. These are all things that could end her quest but she manages to overcome them.

Welty uses details in a way that sometimes provoke surprise and uses detail as a plot, a composition more familiar in photography (Pollack, 1997). She creates a visual setting with the use of descriptions. The way she describes all the things that are encountered and her description of the characters, it easy to gain a mental picture as the story is being told. Betina Entzminger (2003) said that Welty writing of A Worn Path focus is primarily on the thoughts and actions of black protagonists In this particular story this is demonstrated by Phoenix who is the main character in the story is also portrayed in the end as a heroine even though it is not known if she made it back with the medicine.

Through symbolism, conflict, themes, setting, and colorful character presentation, and life giving character values allows the reader to use their imagination, sympathize, make conclusions, and open your eyes to issues that face the black community. Welty created a classic story that leaves the reader in a sense of silent thought when finished. There is no need for the plot of the story to be finished telling if the medicine is brought back or not. The characters are well created, the message is clear, the story is told, and the reader cannot help but understand the determination of love.


Betina Entzminger. (2003). Playing in the dark with Welty: The symbolic role of African

Americans in Delta Wedding. College Literature, 30(3), 52. Retrieved January 17,

2012, from Research Library. (Document ID: 382406901). (n.d). Phoenix. Retrieved from

Pollack, H. (Summer, 1997). Photographic Convention and Story Composition: Eudora Welty's Use of Detail, Plot, Genre, and Expectation from "A Worn Path" through "The Bride of the Innisfallen". South Central Review, 14(2), 15-34. Retrieved from Ashford Library JSTOR, Retrieved on January 19, 2012

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