Short Story #244: A Worn Path by Eudora Welty

Title:  A Worn Path

Author:  Eudora Welty


Portrait of Eudora Welty.  Image source:
An old African American woman, Phoenix Jackson makes her way with her cane on a cold December morning.  As she walks along the path, she mutters to animals and to herself.  Often, she narrates where she is going.  Her dress catches on a bush but she manages to get it free.  She continues on the path that is not any means easy for the older woman with various challenges that she must contend with.  She encounters a large dog and capably diverts its attention.  She meets a hunter who is impressed with this feat.  She explains to him that she is going to town.  The man claims that it's too far for her, but she insists that she needs to.  The hunter makes a derogatory remark towards her.  At the same time, she sees a nickel fall from the man and quickly distracts him in order to pick it up.  She parts from the man and eventually arrives at the city.  It is filled with Christmas decorations and vendors who try to sell her stuff.  She enters a large building where she is gruffly handled by people until a nurse comes in and recognizes her.  She explains that Phoenix comes to get medicine on the behalf of her grandson.  The nurse proceeds to ask her questions but she is silent and ignores her.  When she does respond, she explains she had forgotten for a moment why she was there.  She apologizes and explains it was a lack of learning since she was too old after the end of the Civil War to get an education.  The discussion reveals that the boy had swallowed lye and the resulting injury never full heals.  But the throat closes up and Phoenix needs to come to town to get the medicine to help.  The nurse gets a bottle and marks down charity in the records.  An attendant also kindly gives her a nickel and so she leaves with a dime, which she decides she will use to buy a toy for her grandson.  She leaves the doctor's office. 


A somber story that will probably have many remembering their own grandmothers and the work care they gave to their grandchildren.  Phoenix's journey may seem trite to modern audiences but when considering the ground that needs to be covered by this elderly woman, it becomes a fascinating story.  Welty also provides a fascinating persona in Phoenix that it is not hard to imagine this woman scaling the woods and interacting smartly with the world around her.  

Short Story #244 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/20/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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