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Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” is a heartwarming and inspiring narrative. Welty takes readers on a dangerous, vulnerable, slightly thrilling, and heartening journey that works to remind people of the power of limitless and unconditional love. Welty illustrates this through Phoenix Jackson’s trip to acquire crucial medicine for her sickly grandchild—he is also the sole incentive for making the journey, yet this is not the point of the story. Although the purpose of the story at first seems uncomplicated because it appears to be a short errand, it is quickly revealed through the backstory and details Welty provides that the errand is one of a love that is unwavering and will never die out. While such a concept may appear unrealistic, of idealistic, in real life, the initial scene Welty provides—a poor, elderly, and sickly grandmother in tattered clothes with a makeshift cane walking in cold weather—helps readers realize it is not so far from real life as it may seem. Welty reveals the power of love through Phoenix Jackson’s bravery and determination—she tells of an inspiring story that illustrates the concept that love is a habit and that love is so penetrating that it can break through all the human emotions that tend to destroy one’s happiness.
As the reader dives deeper into the story, it becomes clear that the many occurrences Phoenix confronts on her trip are somewhat representations of real-life occurrences. Welty portrays a lifetime’s journey through the scope of a particular situation where Phoenix Jackson walks a long and worn path to help with her grandchild’s sickness. Welty explains in her essay that the “adventures” she created for Phoenix on her way to getting the medicine had the purpose of truly representing a journey, a life’s journey, which is infused with uncertainty and many of the human emotions that people come across in real life. “A Worn Path” is an uplifting story that is meant to remind people that such an endless love can exist and it is more powerful than fear of death, confusion stemming from old age, or difficulty doing the things one once had no trouble doing. All the adventures and feelings Phoenix comes across on her trip work to ensure readers that the love that is promised in Welty’s story through Phoenix is extremely powerful and important in order for a relationship to thrive.
Through Phoenix’s situation, Welty demonstrates multiple important concepts that work to explain the meaning of the story, which can be deduced to that Phoenix’s trip was one she made to “aid in life, not death.” In addition to illustrating love’s power, she explains the concept that love is a habit. While this idea may, for some, seem to need to include questions about human nature, such complications do not have to be part of this concept because the habit of love is what people forget to accept when they begin to think about such questions about the universe, or human nature perhaps, that humans simply can’t answer. Welty took this idea about love and carved it to fit into a heartening story that is much easier for readers to appreciate, as opposed to the endless conversations about “good versus bad.” To further express this, Welty writes that Phoenix simply knew where to go because her feet told her—as if it was habit. By saying that her bravery and determination in making the trip was simply a habit, it helps explain that it is not something to idealize or be afraid of because it is already ingrained in us.
The question that Welty attends to in her essay is whether the grandchild is dead, yet when the real meaning of the story is interpreted, it can be deduced that the answer to this will not change the reason for writing the story. Welty elaborates by saying that her answer to the question is simply that Phoenix is alive—and that is all that matters. While humans tend to find horror and death entertaining, in a story about unquestionable love, there is no space for such concepts, and this is because I believe Welty did not solely write the story to entertain, but to illustrate as best she could what beauty humans are capable of. Welty writes in her essay, “…the question is not whether the grandchild is alive or dead. It doesn’t affect the outcome of the story or its meaning from start to finish.” Although the story Welty wrote is a short story, and obviously much is most likely reduced to satisfy margins of paper and limits on length, Welty manages to refrain from making Phoenix seem as if she is rushed, yet readers know that she will not turn back from her task. According to Welty, Phoenix, no matter what confronts her, will always get the medicine for her grandchild as long as she is able to.
Welty’s main argument explains that her path is what’s important, hence the title which s meant to illustrate that the many times she has walked the path and the many times she will walk it are what’s important in the story. The grandchild is the incentive for making the trip, yet by the end of the story, most can realize that his presence is not even required because Welty has made it quite explicit she will always make the trip. This particular idea is what invalidates the possibility that the grandchild needs to be alive in order for Phoenix’s trip to be meaningful and inspiring. Someone who wants to do something for someone else, and who is sincerely happy to do it, would not concern themselves with the outcome because it is not what is important. Welty attempts to illustrate this reality through Phoenix—and she is successful in explaining on paper the power of a profound love.
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