For the Love of a Child
What traits are required for someone to be a good caregiver for a child? In the short story “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty, Phoenix is an elderly African-American woman living on the outskirts of Natchez, Mississippi. She must travel into town in the cold of winter to retrieve medicine for her sick grandson. The story details the various difficulties she must face on the way and how she deals with them. Welty shows through Phoenix that it takes selflessness, determination, courage, and cleverness to raise a child.
Phoenix is a selfless person. She puts her grandchild’s needs above her own comfort. Critic Hamm Speaks of this when she says: “Phoenix might be seen as the archetypal mother whose spirit remains undefeated even as she faces the hopelessness of her situation" (1). The trip she makes is difficult because of her age and her poor eyesight. When Phoenix sets out on the trip, it is cold: “It was December—a bright frozen day early in the morning” (Welty 1). Nevertheless, Phoenix keeps going on the trail, using her umbrella as a cane to help her feel her way (Welty 1). Nothing on her journey stops her because her love for her grandson is more valuable than anything. Phoenix puts her grandchild’s happiness first when she has two nickels and thinks first to spend them on the boy:“ ‘I going to the store and buy my child a little windmill they sells, made out of paper. He going to find it hard to believe there such a thing in the world’ ” (Welty 9). She could spend that money on anything, but she wants her grandson to have a small moment of joy. When one is a caregiver, the child’s happiness comes before all else.
The determination and courage that Phoenix shows are key in the care of a child. One critic says: “Through wrinkled and unsteady, Phoenix is regal in her determination” (Hamm 2). A person must be willing and able to face any challenge that comes along. Phoenix does this repeatedly without flinching. She shows great determination as she keeps going, even when it seems like the trail is overwhelming her: “ ‘Seem like there is chains about my feet, time I get this far’ ” (Welty 1). Phoenix stays strong and keeps going. When she faces the hunter and the black dog, she does not stray from her mission. The critic Owen speaks of Phoenix’s courage when facing the hunter and dog: “ Phoenix taunts him (and by extension his dog Pete) with the threat of a big black male dog who is unafraid of the white hunter's imagined authority”(31).When the hunter points his gun at Phoenix, she could cower in fear, but she stays determined to go into town for her grandson’s medicine:“ ‘No sir, I seen plenty go off closer by, in my day, and for less than what I done,’ she says”(Welty 6). Phoenix faces another challenge when she must cross the log covering the creek (Welty 2). This task is difficult because of her age and eyesight. When caring for a child, there are many difficulties that have to be faced every day. It is how we deal with...