Jackson Mind Over Matter By WeltyNovelist Eudora Welty is often studied and adored by manyreaders; her much deserved recognition comes from her brilliant, deeplycompassionate, and lively stories and novels (Ford 36). Like many of herstories, Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” is set in Mississippi. In”A Worn Path,” Welty focuses on an old woman’s journey to Natchez andon the many obstacles that she encounters along the way.
Phoenix is going totown to get medication for her beloved grandson. But he trip is difficultbecause nature and her handicaps are making it hard for her to reach herdestination. Nevertheless, the old woman boldly continues along the equally oldpath, struggling every step of the way. Even though Phoenix faces a number ofobstacles, she reaches her destination and triumphs over her physical handicapsand over nature’s barriers by relying on her inner strengths. Although Phoenixis nearly blind, she does not let her failing eyesight keep her from reachingher destination; she relies on her feet to take her where she needs to go. “Old Phoenix would have been lost had she not distrusted her eyesight anddepended on her feet to know where to take her (162).
” The ragged old womaninches her feet forward with the aid of a makeshift cane, dragging her untiedshoelaces along the icy road. Phoenix’s feet carry her to the top of the hilland then carefully guide her down the hill. But her eyes fail her as she nearsthe bottom of the hill and her dress gets snagged in a thorn bush. “Oldeyes thought you was a pretty little green bush (159).
” She carefully freesherself and continues along the path. When Phoenix nears a fallen tree that laysover the creek, she closes her eyes and lets her feet guide her across it. Herfeet take her across the fields and lead her out of the swamp and through themaze. As she makes her way through the corn field, she stumbles across a tall,dark figure. “Ghost,” she said sharply, “who be you the ghost of?For I have heard of nary death close by (160).
” Her eyesight tricks herinto believing that it is a ghost, or perhaps, the Grim Reaper that has come totake her away. When Phoenix gets no response from the “ghost,” shebravely touches the figure and realizes that it is only a scarecrow. Therelieved woman kicks up her dependable feet and dances with him. Phoenixacknowledges that it is nature’s job to stall her.
However, she makes it clearthat she has no time for the barriers that are being thrown across her path. Sheknows that her life is limited and she has no time for obstructions. When shefinds herself snagged on a thorn bush, she talks to it as she patiently freesherself. “Thorns, you doing your appointed work Never want to let folkspass-no sir (159).
” As Phoenix wobbles along, she comes across a sittingbuzzard and in three simple words she lets him know that he will not dine uponher. “Who you watching (160)?” She slowly sways past him and continuesher journey, while nature carefully plans the next obstacle. Sure enough, asPhoenix stands and ponders, a big black dog creeps up behind her. “Oldwoman,” she said to herself, “that black dog come up out of the weedsto stall you off (161). ” She accepts the fact that the black dog is merelyfollowing nature’s orders. Phoenix’s old body is not as quick as her wit.
WhenPhoenix is startled by the huge mutt, her mind reacts much faster than her body,causing her to drop into a weed-cushioned trench. The old woman is discovered bya young hunter who quickly snatches her out of the ditch. As they converse,Phoenix catches a glimpse of a shiny nickel that drops out of the hunter’spouch. Her mind reacts; her face lights up and she claps her hands. “Lookat that dog! She laughed as if in admiration. He ain’t scared of nobody.
He abig black dog (161). ” Knowing that her old body needs plenty of time tograb the nickel, she uses her wit to shift the hunter’s attention toward the”fearless” dog. As the hunter sets off to prove his own fearlessness,Phoenix goes for the coin. “She was slowly bending forward by that time(162). ” She gradually bows and places the coin in her apron. As Jacksonslowly lifts her body, she notices a bird flying above her.
“Her lipsmoved. God watching me the whole time. I come to stealing (162). ” Sherealizes that God is watching her sin. The culpable woman boldly faces the man,ready to admit her guilt. After a few moments, Phoenix concludes that the hunteris clueless of her thievery so the witty woman subtly confesses to the man:”I seen plenty go off closer by, in my day, and for less than what Idone,” (162).
” Phoenix hobbles along, happy about the shiny nickel inher pocket, yet unsure of why she needs or wants it. Although Phoenix’sdeteriorating memory keeps her from knowing why she is making the journey, herdetermination surpasses her uncertainty. The strong-willed woman has overcomeevery obstacle that nature has put across her path. “Keep out from underthese feet, little bob-whites. .
. . Keep the big wild hogs out of my path. Don’tlet none of those come running my direction. I got a long way (159). ” Shebravely warns the animals to keep out of her way.
When the hunter tells her togo home, she firmly states that she is going to town, not home. “I bound togo to town, mister,” said Phoenix. “The time come around (161). “The hunter mistakenly concludes that the old woman is going to town to seeSanta. Phoenix does not know why she is going to town either, but that does notkeep her from getting there.
Even though the trail is treacherous for someoneher age, she is determined to get where she has to go. Phoenix’s purpose is toget medication for her grandson who swallowed lye a few years earlier. “OldPhoenix Jackson makes her journey on “The Worn Path” to fetch the”soothing medicine” for her little grandson (DLB 526). When Phoenixreaches her destination, she informs the attendant of her presence but forgetswhy she is there. “With her hands on her knees, the old woman waited,silent, erect and motionless, just as if she were in armor (163).
” After afew minutes, the nurse reminds Phoenix of her purpose and her face lights up. “I remembers so plain now. I not going to forget him again, no, the wholeenduring time (164). ” Phoenix apologizes for being forgetful and vows tonever forget her grandson again. The nurse hands Phoenix the medicine and shestrains her eyes in an attempt to see the label.
The attendant offers Phoenix afew pennies. “It’s Christmas time, Grandma, said the attendant. Could Igive you a few pennies out of my purse (164)?” But the witty old woman consthe nurse out of a nickel instead. Phoenix taps her makeshift cane and readiesto leave. She has already decided on how she is going to spend her “newlyfound” treasure.
“I going to the store and buy my child a littlewindmill they sells, made out of paper. He going to find it hard to believethere such a thing in the world (164). ” Knowing that it is Christmas, theloving grandmother is going to buy a gift for her grandson. “Phoenix’s actof love and compassion is primary to the story: the deep-grained habit of love (CLC419). ” Indeed, Phoenix’s love for her only living relative is her greateststrength of all.
Although the ragged old woman suffers from many handicaps, shestarts her journey mentally prepared for the obstacles awaiting her. Phoenixsummons her inner strengths and prevails over every barrier. She relies on hertrustworthy feet to make up for her impaired vision. Her wit makes up for herfrail body.
Her determination makes up for her aged memory. But most of all, herlove for her grandson her keeps her going. Clearly, the frail, forgetful,stubborn and loving old woman can overcome anything. BibliographyFord, Richard. “Bonhomie For A Southern Belletrist.
” New Yorker 19Feb. 1996: 36. Phillips, Robert L. Jr. Contemporary Literary Criticism: EudoraWelty.
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419. Vande Kieft, Ruth. Dictionary of Literary Biography: Eudora Welty. vol.
2. ed. Jeffrey Helterman. Michigan: Gale Research, 1978. 524-526. Welty, Eudora.
“A Worn Path. ” Literature for Composition. 4th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnetet al. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.