"A Worn Path" Essay
In "A Worn Path", Eudora Welty portrays a woman on a journey using words and phrases which contain a psychological connection to the story line. The plot alone is that which is not too intense and complex, however the way Welty uses metaphors, irony, stereotyping and implication of words to fit the story is outstanding. Using these ways of spicing up the content, Welty's writing attracts the reader's interest throughout; even at moments which would normally not. Welty's style of writing "A Worn Path" is that which makes the reader really think about her choice of words, for they are twisted with to portray a mental picture.
Welty sets the tone and feeling of the story using words which create a certain feeling of the situation or setting. The words black and dark are used very often throughout Welty's writing, letting the reader know that the story is a dark one and full of mystery; never knowing what's around the corner. Phoenix Jackson, the main character, is a black woman, described as being dark in tone and wearing a dark, striped dress. The woods Phoenix walks through are dark with dark shadows overcasting. After Phoenix crawled through the barbed-wire fence, she noticed big dead trees, like black men, which were "standing in the purple stalks of the withered cotton field"(2). Welty could have been portraying the sense of black men in slavery times, which were not so long before this story was written. Soon afterwards, Jackson goes through a corn field, noticing something "tall, black, and skinny, moving before her"(2). Phoenix instinctively thought it was a man, scaring her. Welty then describes the "person's" movement "as silent as a ghost,"(2) therefore keeping the dark, eerie tone in this setting. The dog that Phoenix meets up with shortly after is also a black dog, however the owner is a young white man. After leaving the hunter, she continued on her way. "She walked on. The shadows hung like oak trees to the road like curtains"(4) The smell of smoke permeates through the air, now giving a sense of smell to the overall feeling of the situation she's at then. Even when she finally got to town, "Dozens of little black children whirled around her"(4).
Not only does Welty use word choice to set tone and feeling in her story, but she also describes Phoenix Jackson's way of thinking, not necessarily in description, but in word choice as well. The overall view of Jackson's mind and acts are that she's not completely "with it" in her mental state. At points she'll be scared at little things, but when something serious comes around, she is completely calm. Phoenix is very shifty. For example, when Phoenix walked up to the scarecrow, she was very frightened and alarmed. Welty does not just go right out and say this, but it is implied within her word choice. After finding out that it was only a scarecrow, not a man, her face lighted; as to imply that before knowing, she was frightened. After this, she continues talking to the lifeless scarecrow as if it were as real man. She even says, "My senses is gone. I too old"(2). Later, Jackson comes up to a well, which she drank of. "Nobody knows who made this well, for it was here when I was born"(2). This shows that Jackson only thinks according to her being. How does she know that nobody knows who made the well? She didn't, therefore to her, nobody knows. Then, before confronting the black dog, Welty says she was meditating. Obviously, Jackson needs some peace of mind after all the stress she has gone through so far in her journey. After the black dog came up to her, Jackson went into a ditch. "Down there, her senses drifted away"(2). This phrase goes to show that Phoenix Jackson's mental state is unwary. She then was visited by a dream, and reached her hand up. Her sense of reality to dream state is not too keen, confusing the two with where and what she was doing. Later, the dog's owner, the hunter, has a gun pointed directly at Phoenix. She was not frightened in the least bit. "Doesn't the gun scare you?" he said, still pointing [the gun]. "No, sir"(3). Jackson was scared of the scarecrow before, but not scared of a gun pointed at her at point blank range. Phoenix Jackson's feelings and thoughts are different at every situation throughout the story. Her reactions are impossible to guess. Towards the end of the story, Jackson is in the doctor's office to pick up the medicine for her grandson. The nurse was attempting to speak to Phoenix, however Phoenix was not responding. For a moment, Phoenix was just not there (in reality). The story does not describe what in particular she was thinking of, but it definitely was not anything of the situation she was in at the time. Finally, she came to and realized she had forgotten completely why she had even made the trip to begin with. Then, with no further questions asked of her journey and situation, she begins replying to the questions asked her while she was "daydreaming".
The ending of "A Worn Path" alone speaks novels of the psychological aspect of Eudora Welty's story. Phoenix Jackson picks up her medicine from the doctor's office, and goes on her way on the same journey back home. The end. What happens afterward, the reader is not told. The journey back is the same as the one to town. Welty notes that the journey is a familiar one; she does it often. If it was so familiar, however, would she not be scared of certain things such as the scarecrow or have such troubles? Aspects such as this cause the reader to think about what really is going on in Phoenix Jackson's mind and journey. What happens from this point on is for the reader to decide. There is no set events thereafter.
"A Worn Path" is a prime example of a story with many psychological points of view. Much of the story is what the reader makes of it, being led by word choice and events by Eudora Welty. This “darkness of truth” keeps the reader interested, guessing and looking forward to the next incident which will shift the reader's point of view of the journey.
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