A Worn Path By Eudora Welty: A Character Analysis

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Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” tells the story of an unlikely hero. The first thing that comes to mind when considering a heroic character is someone who faces great danger or adversity. This hero or heroine will accomplish amazing feats, go on extraordinary journeys and display exceptional bravery. These characteristics usually follow a certain image as well; a heroic figure is usually a knight in shining armor, a vigilante in a mask or someone with supernatural abilities. However, Welty’s character Phoenix breaks the stereotypical hero image, while still displaying all the characteristics of a true hero. There are many people who embody outstanding bravery, face difficult challenges, and accomplish amazing tasks, but are overlooked or judged…show more content…
Phoenix Jackson is traveling a long distance for the sake of her grandson and refuses to let the elements discourage or hinder her from her ultimate goal. She faces danger head on and at one point she blindly crosses a creek over an old log. Although these obstacles are putting her in danger she does not consider the consequences, because she is doing it to save her grandson. Phoenix’s long journey and struggle with the elements around her is an allusion to the mythological story of Odysseus. Like Phoenix, Odysseus’s journey is long and he faces many hardships for his family. His journey takes him across the sea, which Welty alludes to by making Phoenix cross over a creek: “Putting her foot out, she mounted the log and shut her eyes. Lifting her skirt, leveling her cane fiercely before her […] she began to march across. Then she opened her eyes and she was safe on the other side” (2). Phoenix fearlessly crosses the log, which can easily break and drop her into the creek, which would surely result in her breaking her hip or back. Also, in the story of Odysseus the sun is an obstacle he faces on his journey. After the sun god kills his men for disobeying, Odysseus must continue his journey alone. Likewise, Phoenix struggles with the sun. The sun is an obstacle for Phoenix because it reminds her that time is running out. The narrator states, “Sun so high!’ she cried, leaning back and looking, while…show more content…
Welty is trying to express the importance of the human spirit, which is the true make up of a person. Phoenix’s fiery and youthful spirit is what helps make her heroic. However, people cannot see beyond the exterior. Many of the characters who encounter Phoenix judge her by her outward appearance. They have no idea of the person she is on the inside. The nurses in the doctor’s office are an example of how poorly people treat Phoenix because of her appearance. They both refer to Phoenix as a charity case. The narrator states “A charity case, I suppose,’ said an attendant who sat at the desk before her. […] ‘Oh, that’s just old Aunt Phoenix,’ […]” (6). The women both display an arrogant attitude towards Phoenix because they see her as nothing more than a helpless, little old lady, who needs charity handouts: “All right.’ The nurse was trying to hush her now. She brought her a bottle of medicine. ‘Charity,’ she said, making a check in a book.” (7). The constant reference to Phoenix being a charity case is actually Welty using irony to build upon Phoenix’s character. The nurses use the word charity in context to a generous donation or an act to help someone in need. However, when considering Welty’s constant allusions to Phoenix’s heroism, it is possible Welty is alluding to the Bible’s definition of charity. In the King James Bible charity refers to an act of love or showing great

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