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Death is not something to be feared, but faced with awe. Although, by nature, aging and death are merely facts of life; a loss of hope, the frustration of all aspirations, a leap into a great darkness, and the feelings of fear and anguish. Phoneix Jackson of Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” and Granny of Katherine Anne Porter’s “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” face these inevitable signs of aging and death.
Phoenix Jackson, an old Negro lady, haltingly struggles with her age while walking through the woods and fields on her way to town. “Seem like there is chains about my feet, time I get this far.” Phoenix Jackson walks a worn path and overcomes obstacles and adversity to reach her goal. “She carried a thin, small cane made from an umbrella, and with this she kept tapping the frozen earth in front of her.” The fact that she kept persistently tapping the earth in front of her could only indicate that she was visually impaired. She may not have been completely blind, but she had to have been substantially impaired to keep tapping her cane in a redundant manner.
“But she sat down to rest? She did not dare to close her eyes and when a little boy brought her a plate with a slice of marble cake on it she spoke to him. “That would be acceptable,” she said. But when she went to take it there was just her own hand in the air.” This was just one out of many instances in the story where Phoenix talked to herself and had hallucinations. Talking to one?s self in the forest is a definite sign of senility. Phoenix did not allow her disabilities to get in her way. Her memory fails her when she forgets the purpose of her nature walk. “My senses is gone. I too old, I the oldest people I ever know.”
As a dying person, Granny Weatherall is losing her powers of deliberate control over events, which she has evidently learned to master along with the various disappointments that life has dealt her but is also subject to a number of intense anxieties. “While she was rummaging around she found death in her mind and it felt clammy and unfamiliar. She had spent so much time preparing for death there was no need for bringing it up again.” In a semi-conscious state the feisty and irritable Granny reviews her life by remembering the important happenings, disappointments, crises, achievements, and feelings.
The author uses a style of stream-of-consciousness which renders the thoughts, memories, and associations of Granny?s mind. This technique is especially well-suited to the story because it reveals Grannys alternating confused and clear thoughts during her final moments as she moves from lucid consciousness to confused semiconsciousness..
?He just left five minutes ago.? ?That was this morning, Mother. It?s night now.? The memories, thoughts, feelings, and images that strike Granny’s mind in the present when they happened in the past are her most significant experiences. Granny Weatherall is jilted when the final sign she’s been waiting for from Jesus never appears. “For the second time there was no sign. Again no bridegroom and the priest in the house . . . She stretched herself with a deep breath and blew out the light.” The light, which she blows out represents her life and as she descends into the darkness of death.
These stories have the power to stimulate profound feelings and an intellectual
understanding of life and death
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