“A Worn Path” Essay, Research Paper
Phoenix Jackson in ?A Worn Path?
??Out of my way, all you foxes, owls, beetles, jack rabbits, coons and wild animals!? Keep the big wild hogs out of my path. Don?t let none of those come running my direction. I got a long way?? (116).
Through the character of Phoenix Jackson in ?A Worn Path? Welty produces a picture of an aging African-American woman in the Jim Crow South. In ?A Worn Path? we learn of the hardships Jackson faces on her weekly journey for medicine to sooth the pain of her grandson. Welty conveys this these hardships by giving the reader insight into the physical health, the mental health, and the socio-economic status of Jackson.
In ?A Worn Path,? Phoenix Jackson?s physical age inhibits both her journey through the woods and life. The round character is weak and feeble. Welty conveys her age by comparing Phoenix to a tree. ?Her skin had a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles and as though a whole little tree stood in the middle of her forehead? (116). Jackson is personified as an aging tree in. Her fragility is further emphasized as she earnestly tries to journey through the woods ad a barb wired fence. The character does not have ample dexterity or flexibility; thus, maneuvering through the lush woods is time-consuming, challenging and strenuous. Phoenix Jackson?s, in ?A Worn Path,? physical limitations eluded to the difficulties she faces throughout her journey.
In addition to her physical deterioration, Phoenix Jackson is struggling with senility and mental fatigue. The round character is fatigued by life. The protagonist is consumed with grief regarding her economic hardship, grandson?s failing health and the blatant racism. All of these social factors are eroding her mind. Jackson has lost her perception and memory. She is easily fooled and mistaken. For example, in the woods, the elderly woman approaches an ominous figure that she is unable to identify. As she continues to approach the unknown object, she realizes that she encountered a scarecrow. Upon this realization, the aged woman acknowledges her decreasing mental capabilities. ?My senses is gone. I too old, I the oldest people I ever know? (117). Phoenix Jackson, in Welty?s ?A Worn Path? must battle the physical and mental challenges as she travels to Natchez to obtain medicine for her beloved grandson.
Aside from the internal pressures of old age, Phoenix Jackson is battling external socio-economic pressures. Foremost, the elderly lady is extremely poor. She is forced to steal from strangers and accept welfare, money and prescription medicine from the nurses at the hospital. The nurses dubbed her a ?charity? case (120). As with most poor black rural southerners in the early twentieth century, Phoenix Jackson is illiterate and uneducated. She emphasizes, ??I?m an old woman without an education?? (120). The aging character is uneducated and poverty stricken. Many African-Americans in the Jim Crow South endured these said circumstances, as well as racism and violence. The flat characters address the agile woman in a disrespectful and condescending manner. She is not given respect or even courtesy. These characters illustrate that Jackson is inferior by virtue of her race and economic status. The socio-economic factors affecting Phoenix Jackson further characterize who she is.
In ?A Worn Path? Welty successfully portrays the hardships of Phoenix Jackson. Through her health and status in society we learn that Jackson is a round character whose life is full of trials against the world around her. Jackson is truly a character who evokes empathy and respect from the reader for overcoming the obstacles in her life all for the love of her grandson.
Welty, Eudora. A Worn Path. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing.
Ed. Edward V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. Compact Edition. Upper Saddle River, New
Jersey: Prentice, 1998. 115-121