A Worn Path
A Worn Path Summary
A Worn Path is a controlled story of unconscious heroism written by American novelist and short-story writer Eudora Welty. This story describes the long, dangerous and difficult journey made by an old negro woman, Phoenix Jackson to the city of Natchez to bring some medicine for her grandson.
In a cold December morning, an old Negro woman Phoenix Jackson began her journey through the pine forest. She was carrying a cane made from an umbrella to support herself on her long journey. Warning the wild animals to get out of her way, she reached to the top of the hill and looked back at the way she had just come from.
Then, she started climbing down the hill through oak trees. Freeing her clothes from the thorny bushes she reached to the bottom of the hill. There were a creek and a log laid across it. She crossed the creek with the help of her cane and rested for a while under a big tree. She had a dream of a boy coming to her holding a plate with cake on it. Then, she crawled along the barbed wired fence and reached the field of cotton. In the cotton filed, she was reminded of her encounter with a bull and two-headed snake. Then, she reached the field of dead corn where she was frightened by a scarecrow supposing it to be a ghost. Facing all these difficulties and dealing with each of them successfully finally, she reached a wagon track.
Phoenix Jackson continued her journey through the swampy part of the forest, drinking some water from a spring flowing through a hollow log. In the swampy part of the forest, she had an encounter with a wild dog. While she was trying to hit it with her cane, she fell into a ditch. After some time she was rescued by a white hunter, out of the ditch. When she saw a nickel coin fall out of the white man’s pocket, she put it into her own. But immediately she realized her guilt, thinking that she was being watched by the god. Then they went to different directions.
As it was Christmas time the city of Natchez was decorated with colorful lights. While walking on the street of Natchez, she asked a lady to lace up her shoes. Finally, she entered a stony building. When she saw a document framed with golden frame and seal nailed on the wall she realized that she was in the doctor’s office. The attendant in the clinic asked her several questions but she didn’t respond to her because she has forgotten the purpose of her journey. After she came back to consciousness, she explained that her grandson was suffering from throat problems, ever since he has swallowed lye (ash) and his condition was still the same. Then, she was given some medicine by the nurse and a nickel by the attendant. Thinking of buying a windmill for her grandson with this money, she started her journey back.
Bringing medicine for her grandson, overcoming all these obstacles is really a heroic act. Though she was performing something, she was not aware of it. She carries out such her act in the unconscious state of her mind. Therefore, A Worn Path is a controlled story of unconscious heroism.
Some Important Questions From “A Worn Path”:
Question. In Egyptian mythology, the Phoenix was a bird of great Splendour that every five hundred years consumed itself by fire and rose renewed from its own ashes. In what way Phoenix Jackson is like the bird?
Answer. Phoenix Jackson resembles the bird of Egyptian mythology, Phoenix in the following ways.
- Both of them have a long span of life. The bird lived for 500 years and the woman Phoenix Jackson was more than 100 years old. Thus, both of them have an extraordinarily long span of life.
- Both the woman and the bird were endowed (given) with great splendor. Like the bird, the woman was filled with extraordinary energy in spite of her old age.
- Both the bird and the woman continued their journey ahead after a temporary pause. The bird continued its life out of its own ashes every 500 years. In the same way, Phoenix Jackson also continued her journey after losing her consciousness temporarily.
Question. Why does Phoenix keep talking to herself? What do her monologues add to the total portrait of her?
Answer. Phoenix Jackson keeps on talking to herself in order to avoid the monotony due to a long and difficult journey. If we look from a Psychological point of view it is natural for her because in a very old age people are likely to talk with themselves. We get much information from her monologues. We get to know about her personal condition and life from her monologues, we are able to know about her only grandson, the condition of his grandson, her old age and her frequent trip to the town for medicine. From her monologues, we also come to know that she was determined, romantic and loving to wild birds and animals.
Question. What significance can you attach to the fact that the journey takes place at Christmas time?
Answer. Phoenix Jackson makes her journey to the city of Natchez at Christmas. It is significant because she expected to get some presents for her grandson from Santa Clause. She didn’t have enough money of her own to buy a gift for her grandson. Therefore, she expected some charity from benevolent people at the time of Christmas.
Question. What is the meaning of the episode in which Phoenix steals the nickel? Does the act offend our sense of honesty? Explain your answer.
Answer. The episode, in which Phoenix Jackson steals a nickel, signifies the poor economic condition of Phoenix Jackson. Though she was going to buy some medicine for her grandson, she was penny less. Therefore, she was compelled to steal the nickel. This act of Phoenix doesn’t offend our sense of honesty because she had stolen the money, not for herself but saving the life of her grandson. Stealing for the purpose of saving someone’s life is justifiable.
Question. What did old Phoenix Jackson do when she was knocked down by the dog?
Answer. While hitting the dog with her stick she fell into the ditch. she was lucky because she had fallen on a springy bed of dry weeds (Soft Substance). After some time she was rescued by a white hunter, out of the ditch.
Question. Why is Phoenix Jackson taking a long trip to town?
Answer. Lady Phoneix Jackson was very old. While she was walking along the difficult path to the town, she was murmuring all the time with herself. Yet we don’t hear her speaking anything about her grandson till she gets to the hospital in the town. She has gone all the way down through the difficult path to the town in order to bring medicine to her Grandson. Because her Grandson’s throat is not well and he has difficulty in swallowing and breathing. This shows her love for her Grandson.
Question. “A Worn Path” is a story of the unconscious heroism of Phoneix Jackson. Discuss.
Answer. The story “A Worn Path” is a beautifully written controlled story of unconscious heroism. The main character of the story Phoneix Jackson unknowingly shows a great settlement of heroism and deals with great danger for her grandson thus A Worn Path is a controlled story of unconscious heroism.
The writer Eudora Welty takes us into the old Phoneix Jackson’s mind with a great delegation and discloses her firm dignity. She is very old and small because of her age. She talks to herself throughout the whole journey. Such monologues help us to learn about her situation.
She speaks to the bushes, birds, and animals and climbs the high hills, cross the dangerous creeks, frees her clothes from the thorny bushes, gets frightened by a scarecrow supposing it to be a ghost. One after another obstacle weakens her confidence but she always restores her courage and acts like a hero. In fact, she risks her life for her Grandson.
Bringing medication for her grandson, winning all these barriers is really a noble act. Though she was doing something, she was not conscious of it. She carries out such her act in the unconscious state of her mind. Therefore, A Worn Path is a controlled story of unconscious heroism.
Some Important Questions From “A Worn Path”
- What did old Phoenix Jackson do when she was knocked down by the dog?
- Write a summary of the Worn Path.
- Show an analogy between the mythical bird “Phonix” old “Phoenix Jackson’ according to the story “A Worn Path.”
- Why is Phoenix Jackson taking a long trip to town?
- Describe two obstacles old Phoenix Jackson comes up against on her way to the hospital and how she deals with them.
- Why does Phoenix Jackson keep talking to herself? What do her monologues add to the total portrait of her?
- Describe the story “A Worn Path” as a story of unconscious heroism.
- “A Worn Path” is a story of the unconscious heroism of Phoneix Jackson. Discuss.
- How was Phoenix Jackson’s journey to the town? Discuss.
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MY HEART LEAPS UP WHEN I BEHOLD
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