A Worn Path Theme

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In the short story “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty, Phoenix Jackson is an elderly African-American woman who plans to go on a very difficult journey. This journey is not only arduous for Phoenix physically, but mentally also. Through the journey she succumbs to challenges such as crawling on the forrest floor despite her old age, and often loses focus from the purpose of her journey. The setting of the story creates a strenuous path for Phoenix to travel, and also enhances the mental strain Phoenix experiences on a daily basis. From the beginning of the story, the description of the setting alludes to a somber mood, “It was December—a bright frozen day in the early morning. Far out in the country.” Phoenix lives far out in the country and is…show more content…
“When a little boy brought her a plate with a slice of marble-cake on it she spoke to him. 'That would be acceptable,' she said. But when she went to take it there was just her own hand in the air.” This incident does not frighten Phoenix, or even phase her at all. Once she realizes the boy is not there, she simply continues on her path, making it seem as though a hallucination is not out of the norm. Likewise, it is revealed that this journey is routine through the line “There was a fixed and ceremonial stiffness over her body.” The word ceremonial shows that this is not new to Phoenix and she does this often without even knowing why. The hospital is where the reader can truly see Phoenix is very unreliable. The nurse says “She makes these trips just as regular as clockwork” in reference to Phoenix. With the faulty memory of Phoenix and and the attitude from the nurses, the reader can infer that Phoenix’s grandson may not be alive, or if he was sick he is probably better by now, making her journey a routine as a result of her mental deterioration. The physical complications of the path help enhance the feeling of uncertainty and turmoil Phoenix feels when traveling the path and thinking about her grandson. This journey is not only arduous for Phoenix physically, but mentally

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