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Realism In Eudora Welty's A Worn Path

1169 words - 5 pages

Realism in Eudora Welty's A Worn Path


Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" is a story that emphasizes the natural symbolism of the
surroundings. The main character in the story, Phoenix Jackson, is an old black woman who
seeks out to find medicine for her sick nephew. This story contains a motif, which is the
continuous walking of Phoenix Jackson throughout her journey. She lives in the pinewoods
and faces the challenging experience of walking through the snowy, frozen earth to get to
the hospital in the city of Natchez. Phoenix Jackson is a very caring person, and is in
love with life. Although she is very old, it seems that she has many years ahead of her.
Eudora Welty brings realism into the story describing the realities of being old.

It is Christmas, and Phoenix Jackson has to head out to the city to obtain the medicine
for her nephew. A long time ago, her nephew swallowed lye that burned his throat, and the
medicine is the only thing that relieves his pain. The woods are filled with pine trees
that cast dark shadows throughout the terrain. The darkness that surrounds Phoenix is the
total opposite of her. She is a poor woman, but is very neat and tidy. She appreciates
the small things in life and respects what she has. Although she is old, she has
extremely dark hair, wears a red bandana, and has much "life" within her:

Her skin had a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles and as though a whole
little tree stood in the middle of her forehead, but a golden color ran underneath, and the two knobs of her cheeks were illumined by a yellow burning under
the bark. (87)

It is almost as if she is a part of nature herself, when Eudora Welty describes her as
having a tree within her forehead. She is a very lively person, and is willing to go
through this obstacle course of vicissitudes of the cold earth: "Under the red rag her
hair came down on her neck in the frailest of ringlets, still black, and with an odor
like copper" (87). The copper smell of her hair brings more realism of old age. When she
stops to sit down under a tree, she dazes off and thinks that a little boy is giving her
a piece of marble cake. She then snaps out of her trance and sees only her hand waiving
in the air. This shows that very old people hallucinate sometimes, which is completely
natural. The name "Phoenix", is the name of an ancient Egyptian bird that regenerates
itself after 500 years and lives on for another 500 years. This old woman represents the
phoenix, which lives on in her old age.

Phoenix Jackson demonstrates her love of life as she talks to all of the animals within
the forest: "Out of my way, all you foxes, owls, beetles, jack rabbits, coons and wild
animal! Keep out from under these feet, little bob-whites. Keep the big wild hogs out of
my path. Don't let none of those come running my direction. I got a long way" (87). She
realizes she has a long journey ahead of her, but will do whatever it takes to...

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