Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” is a brief story regarding Phoenix Jackson, the protagonist of the narrative. She is an old African-American woman who is on a journey to a hospital in Natchez city to obtain some specific medicine for her grandson (Welty, 1941). Jackson’s grandson unintentionally swallowed lye some years ago which burned his throat, and he needs the medicine to heal him. During her journey, Jackson encounters several obstacles. Since it is a winter period, the whole mountain is covered with frost, and this makes it difficult for her to cross the mountain. Other than the frost, Jackson’s physical age, poor eyesight, and mental fatigue further make her journey hard. She also had to cross streams, crawl underneath a barbed-wire fence, face the danger of being alone in the woods, or being shot by a hunter. Despite all these challenges, Jackson does not give up till she obtains the medicine.
I chose Phoenix Jackson because of my admiration of her strong and valuable qualities: determination and love. Considering the extreme weather conditions during the winter time when Jackson made her journey to the city coupled with the endless obstructions she faced, it would have been easier for her to surrender and return home, but she did not. She managed to overcome all the obstacles and acquired the medication for her grandson.
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Jackson’s Positive and Negative Traits
The author presents Jackson as a loving and caring grandmother who is devoted to her grandson’s wellbeing. That love drives her to take a journey that is full of challenges in order to obtain help for her ailing grandson (Welty, 1941). Her other positive traits include will power, determination, and focus. These qualities enabled Jackson to tolerate the hardships she faced on her way to the city. Despite her numerous strengths, Jackson picked a nickel that had fallen from the white hunter’s pocket and placed in her apron. This is stealing, but I guess she did it, because she wanted to purchase a Christmas gift for her grandson.
Jackson’s Core Quest
Jackson’s main quest is to obtain medicine that will cure his grandson. She is aware that without the medicine, her grandson’s throat would probably remain swollen and unhealed forever. That is why she is determined to get the cure irrespective of what she had to undergo. Therefore, I would say that Jackson’s actions paid off in the end, because she managed to accomplish her mission.
Jackson’s Actions and what They Say about Her
From the story, we see Jackson overcoming all the obstacles she encountered on her way to town till she obtained the medicine that her grandson required. For instance, the snow that covered the mountains made it hard for her to walk as well as the barbed-wire fence which she had to crawl beneath (Welty, 1941). Because of her age, Jackson would have given up, but she was determined to see her grandson healed. This is an illustration of Jackson’s undying love and selfless concern that she had towards her grandson.
Jackson’s Interaction with Others
From Welty’s story, Jackson relates with various characters such as her grandson, the white hunter, the nurse at the hospital as well as various animals and plants in the forest. Jackson’s love and respect towards others are seen in her interaction with the above characters. She treated the animals she came across in the forest as her juniors and exercised her power over them. This is evident when she hit the black dog that came to drink from the same spring where she was quenching her thirst. However, she became humble in her interaction with the hunter and the nurse which is an indication of her respect towards them.
Symbolism Associated With Phoenix Jackson
The water which Jackson drank from the spring symbolizes long life. The frightening black dog as well as the barbed wire fence which Jackson had to crawl under symbolized difficulties such as confinement and persecution which enslaved blacks encountered in the past.
Jackson’s Actions and Reactions in the Context of the Book's Historical Setting
Welty’s book portrays the hardships such as racism, segregation, inequality etc. that the African-American community underwent during the previous years. For instance, when the nurse at the hospital asked what she wanted, Jackson kept silence. This may signify both lack of memory and inferiority complex. Jackson may have lacked the courage to speak to the white nurses and doctors because of her black color.
Jackson’s Character Arc/ Emotional Growth
Jackson’s journey to the city was full of obstacles, but she overcame them all to accomplish her mission. Therefore, I can say that she felt inspired and strengthened at the end of the journey because her efforts paid off.
Lessons from Jackson’s Personality
Jackson’s personality is that of a loving, caring, and determined woman who despite her old age and physical health is ready to do everything possible to ensure her grandson gets cured (Welty, 1941). I admire her love towards her grandson and strong will to accomplish her mission despite the numerous challenges she faces. A lesson from Jackson’s life is that everything is attainable through determination, perseverance, focus, and devotion. These are valuable qualities that are worth emulating. I understand that Jackson is poor, but her act of stealing money from the hunter to enable her purchase a Christmas present for her grandson was wrong and unnecessary.
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