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Summary – A Worn Path | Magic of Words

Unit-2: Men, Women and Children
Chapter 4: A Worn Path [Eudora Welty]


‘A Worn Path’ is a story of an old courageous woman Phoenix Jackson, who loves her grandson very much, so, goes to the city to take medicine for his treatment. Jackson shows her unconscious heroism because she crosses multiple obstacles in her long journey to the city.  She is a lovely Negro grandmother who ties her head with a red rag. She wears a dark striped dress reaching up to her shoe tops. She also wears a neat and clean long apron with a full of pocket.

Her eyes are blue with age and skin is wrinkled. Under the red rag, her black hair hanging down on her neck which has an order of copper. She carries a thin small cane made from an umbrella. Jackson stats her journey in the early morning of December. It is chilly cold, she walks through the pine forest. She asks all wild creatures to go away from her path. Sunlight makes pine bright to look at. Jackson climbs up the hill and riches at the top.

Now she has to climb down the oak forest. When thorny bush catches her. But, it is her only imagination, Phoenix becomes happy as it is not a season if bulls and snakes. She passes through old cotton and goes into a field of dead corn. She frightens with scarecrow which she first supposes a ghost. She goes near to it, closes eyes and touches it. She laughs herself. Then she walks further and finds quail (a wild hen) running into the forest.

In a flowing stream, Jackson drinks water and says that nobody knows who made that well. Now track goes into the road.  When she reaches the height bank, a dock comes out from the ditch. She tries to remove it with a cane but falls into the ditch. A white hunter pulls her out. He asks her where she is going. When he knows that she is going to the city, he says black people never miss to see Santa Claus.

Hunter runs away by chasing dog and old women pick up a nickel fallen down from hunter’s pocket. She hears dogs fighting. Hunter comes back and pointed his gun at phoenix but she does not scare. Phoenix and hunter go in a different direction. Now Jackson is near to the city. She hears bells ringing. Houses are decorated ad Christmas is coming near. Jackson asks a beautiful lady to tie her shoelace.

Moving slowly from side to side, finally, she climbs up the stairs of a stony building before reaching the destination. She goes inside the room. An attendant asks multiple questions but Jackson does not speak at all. She is so tired that she forgets the way she is there. One nurse comes and asks her to sit. When nurses ask her about her grandson, she still remains silent. When Jackson comes to real consciousness, she says that her grandson is the same as before.

He is waiting for her inside the patch (torn) quilt opening his mouth like a little bird. Nurses say that it is an obstinate case and gives a bottle of medicine free of cost. The attendant gives a nickel to Jackson. She puts it with the previous one. Now Jackson steps out from the room. She has planned to buy a little windmill for her grandson.

In this story, we can easily observe the difficulties of remote areas. In the village area, people are deprived of the basic facilities of health is one major concern of this story. Next side this story exposes the never-dying love of grandmother toward her grandson. Jackson and grandson are so close that one is living for others. Although she is very old but determined to save her grandson’s life.

Short Answer Questions

1. What is the significance of Phoenix Jackson’s trip to the town on the eve of Christmas? What could be her purpose?

The protagonist of the story “A Worn Path” written by Eudora Welty, Phoenix Jackson takes her trip to town at the time of Christmas Eve. She intentionally choose the time for her journey. There are some reasons behind her trip to town at the time of Christmas.

Christmas time is the time of joy and happiness. People seem festive at this time. Generally, they like to give charity to the poor people. Phoenix Jackson has a grandchild at her home who expects something from her at the time of the festival. If she made a journey at this time, she would get charity and buy something for her grandchild, who is sick.

In addition to that, the town seems to be decorated and she would love to be there. She would get the support and care for the people. Similarly, she goes to town to bring medicine for her grandchild. She thought she would get medicine as a charity. So, she made her trip to town at the time of Christmas Eve.

2. What did old Phoenix do when she was knocked down by the dog?

The Old Phoenix, the protagonist of the story, tactfully tackled the situation when she had been knocked down by the dog. She fell down on the ditch when the dog knocked her. Phoenix but didn’t surrender. She waited for someone to lift her up and blamed the dog for his act. She gave her hand. As expected, a Whiteman with the gun came. He asked what she had been doing there. She gave him the hand and he lifted her up.

Long Answer Questions

1. Trace the various obstacles Old Phoenix has to face during her journey to town.

In “A Worn Path”, written by Eudora Welty, an old woman named Phoenix Jackson is walking through the woods into town. Oh her way she encounters many obstacles, including thorny bushes, barbed wire, and large dog, among others. Though she faces many obstacles on her way, she overcomes them. On her got caught by thorny bush. After sometimes, she came by a creek. She had to cross it through a log. There are many other obstacles she comes across but she deals with each of them perfectly.

After climbing the hill with great difficulty, she has to climb down but by then she gets caught by thorny bush. Her long skirt made up of sugar sacks entangles in the bush. When she frees one side, she finds another side already caught. She doesn’t want her skirt to be torn out. She then starts to deal with it. She communicates with the bush and begs for permission to pass through it. Then, with great labor she frees herself and again continued her journey.

After sometimes, she comes by a creek. She has to cross it. It is not an easy job. She has to cross it through a log. She takes it to be a trial. Then, she deals with it. She closes her eyes and levels the log with the help of the cane made from umbrella. She mounts on the log. Very carefully, she crosses the creek.

She again continued her journey but there was another obstacle waiting for her. Now, she had to cross through a barbed-wire fence. She crept and crawled through the wire saving herself and her gown. Again, she faced trouble successfully. Now, she was passing through a cornfield. There she saw a scarecrow. At first, she thought it to be a ghost but very boldly, she talked with it. Finally, when she knew that it was a scarecrow, she even danced with it. after crossing the cornfield as she was going to her way from somewhere, a black dog came before her all of a sudden.

She lost her balance and fell down in a ditch there. She raised her hand for help. But, as there was nobody around, she silently remained there until a Whiteman helped her. In short, Phoenix Jackson’s obstacles make her strong. She knows how to tackle them. Her long experience and tolerance made her journey possible. Indeed, we admire her efforts and courage which she displayed during her journey to town.

2. “A Worn Path” is a story of the unconscious heroism of Phoenix Jackson. Elaborate it.

“A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty is the story of unconscious heroism. The heroine of the story, Phoenix Jackson, shows her unconscious heroism in the journey she makes to town. She faces many obstacles that cross by showing unconscious heroism. If Phoenix were conscious of the obstacles and difficulties that came on her way, she would not make it possible. Many of the time Phoenix was not conscious of the result.

She passed through the thorny bush delicately. She entered the wood of the wild animals and snow all over. She mounted through the log to cross the creek. She crawled through the fence and walked in the field of cotton and corn. Every time she was not conscious of the difficulty and the outcome. Unconsciously she tackled them.

Phoenix is the oldest person she knows, though she does not know exactly how old she is. Mainly because of her age, the simple walk from her remote home into Natchez is a difficult journey to take on epic proportions. She fears delays caused by wild animals getting in her way: foxes, owls, beetles, jack rabbits, and raccoons. She comfortably reflects that snakes and alligators hibernate in December. Thorn bushes and barbed-wire fences, log bridges and hills are major barriers for her.

The cornfield she must cross from her initial path to a wagon road is a maze, haunted to her nearsightedness by a ghost that turns out to be a scarecrow. She must also struggle against her tendency to slip into a dream and forget her task, as when she stops for a rest and dreams of a boy offering her a piece of cake. Yet she fulfills by her unconscious heroic moves. She was not aware of the consequences.

Thus, despite the difficulty of her trip, she clearly enjoys her adventure because of her unconscious involvement in the journey. She talks happily to the landscape, warning the small animals to stay safely out of her way and showing patience with the thorn bush, which behaves naturally in catching her dress. She speaks good-humoredly of the dangers of the barbed wire. Her encounter with the “ghost” ends in a short, merry dance with the scarecrow, a celebration that she has not yet met death. Difficult and important as her trip is, she extracts pleasure from it, which further reveals the depth of goodness in her character.

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