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The Long Road

Eudora Welty s short story A Worn Path is about a lonely, elderly colored woman and her journey to get to town. The main character fights with herself and nature in her battle to get into town. The reason why Welty s main character is so desperate to make it to and from town is to pick up medicine for a sick grandchild. However, this story expands by use of different literary elements that enable the story to be seen as more than a journey to and from town.

The main character in A Worn Path is the elderly Negro lady Phoenix. The name Phoenix fits this elderly lady like a glove because she is trying to rise above her health conditions to make it into town. For that a Phoenix is a mythological creature that dies in fire, but rises from the ashes only to be stronger. Phoenix is showing qualities of her mythological namesake by braving the elements so that her grandson can get the medicine he needs to get better. The name Phoenix applied to the black lady can also symbolize how Negroes where held down by their oppressors. However, Phoenix and fellow Negroes are now rising from their ashes (slavery) to live life once again.

The title A Worn Path is itself an allusion made by Welty. The worn path in the story is the path that Phoenix has to walk to get into town. However, we the readers should also be aware of how blacks had to walk paths to get too much more than a town, but freedom. Many slaves escaped plantations by walking all day and night in unbearable conditions so that they could be free. Phoenix is not walking this path to set herself free, but her grandson, who is in dire need of the medicine.

As Phoenix was on her journey, she thought she had seen a ghost. However, It was a scarecrow she was looking at. True it might just be a scarecrow she is looking at, but that scarecrow has a deeper literary meaning to it than that. For that her ancestors had worked the plantation fields for long laborious hours with little food for themselves. By malnutrition, their cheeks had been known to sink into their faces. The slaves ultimately look like scarecrows. So in a way, she really did see a ghost by looking at the scarecrow. Phoenix saw the ghosts of her past.

This story is about more than an old Negro lady trying to get medicine for her grandson. It is about the struggle that all Negroes have had to make in the United States. That struggle is prejudices and racism that the Negroes had to put up with to get their freedom. Despite the hurt and pain inflicted upon them, the Negroes kept walking. Phoenix is doing the same, by walking the worn path to help her own kind.


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