A Worn Path Conflict Essay

A Worn Path: Struggle For Racial Equality Essay

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A Worn Path: Struggle for Racial Equality In "A Worn Path", a short story by Eudora Welty, the main character, an old colored woman named Phoenix, slowly but surely makes her way down a "worn path" through the woods. Throughout her journey, she runs into many obstacles such as a thorny bush and a hunter. She overcomes these obstacles and continues with her travels. She finally reaches her destination, the doctor’s office, where she gets medicine for her sick grandson back home. Many critics have speculated that this short story represents the love a grandmother shows for her grandson. Others say this story represents life and death, where Phoenix represents an immortal figure. Dennis J. Sykes disagrees with the other critics by saying,…show more content…

The red also represents the confederate flag for the Civil War. Phoenix wearing the red flag shows how the south always had a hold on the slaves. When thinking of the words dark and striped, most are reminded of prisoners in a jail cell, which is just what the slaves were in the 1700’s and 1800s, prisoners to the white. The dark striped dress Phoenix was wearing represents a black and white jail cell uniform for prisoners. Welty used the main character, Phoenix, to be her representation of slaves and blacks. With a character like Phoenix, many get a grasp on what blacks really have gone through and what they still may be going through now. The author uses her characters, both human and animal, to exhibit the obstacles blacks must face in everyday life. Dennis J. Sykes agrees in his article, “A Critical Analysis of the Worn Path” that “Phoenix Jackson’s … encounters with other characters illustrates the theme of impending black equality and amalgamation in the south after Civil War” (np). The characters, including the white hunter and black dog, Phoenix runs into in the story represent different individuals of all colors which present obstacles in a person such as Phoenix’s life. When the hunter comes along, the author describes him as white. She could have left his color out of the description, but she obviously felt it important to mention to her

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We're Off to See the Wizard

The story set up gives us the deets on Phoenix's physical appearance and some info on her surroundings. At this point, we know we are following along with a small, old black woman as she makes her way along a path situated way out in the country woods. Okay, so it's not the yellow brick road, but it is still a really long path. Settle in.

Rising Action

Over the River and Through the Woods

As Phoenix traverses her path, she crosses through pinewoods, oak trees, up hills and down hills, through thorny bushes, over a creek on a sketchy looking log bridge, under a barbed-wire fence, through dead trees and fields of dried corn and cotton, through easy parts and swampy parts.

She meets all sorts of beasts and specters along the way: a mourning dove, an imaginary boy bearing a slice of cake, a buzzard, a ghost—okay, it's actually a scarecrow, but it looks like a ghost from afar—quail, and a galloping black dog. There are also hints of plenty of other creatures such as alligators, two-headed snakes, and foxes. Phoenix even encounters a person, a hunter who helps her up, chats with her, and then points a gun at her.

In short, the rising action of this story presents Phoenix's journey as quite the ordeal, jam packed with classical-myth-style obstacles. After all this, Phoenix finally arrives in town, which has a very different feel with its paved streets and green and red lights strung up for Christmas.


Phoenix in the City

"A Worn Path" is not exactly a mystery thriller, but there is mystery involved around where Phoenix is going, why, and whether she will reach her goal. We finally get answers to all this when Phoenix ascends the stairs leading to the medical office and announces, "Here I be" (68). Her epic journey culminates at this clinic where she seeks medicine to soothe her grandson's throat.

The clinic is also the place of most significant confrontation because it is where the protagonist https://www.shmoop.com/literature-glossary/protagonist.html goes from Phoenix the heroic quester, to Phoenix the old and exhausted woman who is powerless to alter her grandson's condition. At least, this is how the attendant and the nurse at the clinic see her. But Phoenix, like the bird she is named for, rises again, above their judgments and undeterred from her purpose.

Falling Action

Mission Accomplished

Once Phoenix procures the medicine for her grandson, the attendant offers Phoenix some spare change from her purse as Phoenix prepares to leave. Phoenix adds the nickel from the attendant to the nickel she took from the hunter, and she decides that she will buy a paper windmill to bring back for her grandson along with his medicine.


She Will Survive, Hey, Hey

Phoenix ends the story and begins her return with the same sense of solemnity and ceremony that she held throughout her journey into town. Each movement of her exit is recorded—"she lifted her free hand, gave a little nod, turned around, and walked out of the doctor's office" (100)—demonstrating her careful attention, commitment to, and belief in her journey despite what others think.


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