A Worn Path Essay

A Worn Path Essay

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Ambiguity in “A Worn Path” has a significant impact on the story's presentation . The story does not know the trip's purpose until the end, when Phoenix herself remembers. This ambiguity of purpose impacts atmosphere and believability and creates a more direct experience of Phoenix's trip. If the journey's purpose was clear from the start, the story would either feel different or need adjustments in writing. The ambiguity impacts how information is interpreted, the choice of narration, and the expressive result of the work.
Several details are given throughout Phoenix's trip without relevance to her destination. Every detail stands out because it is not known why Phoenix is traveling. This can lead to premature conclusions about Phoenix's goal. For example, she has concerns about her dress being torn, she has need to go under a barbed wire fence, and after the fence she sees “Big dead trees, like black men with one arm, were standing in the purple stalks of the withered cotton field” (1286). These details could lead to speculation that Phoenix is in the antebellum South, and is trying to return to the plantation hastily and subtly. A torn dress may reveal her night activities and the fence may be around the plantation itself. The image of one-armed black men standing in cotton fields invokes the antebellum South because of the association of cotton fields with slavery and the potential of amputation as a sort of punishment. It is not immediately known whether these images are related to Phoenix's past, present, or neither. The story came out in 1941, so if she is around 90 and the story takes places in 1941, she could reasonably have memories of slavery. However, the fact that when she encounters a white man she is not questio...


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...that her forgetfulness caused his death, either with the lye incident itself or afterwards. This is ambiguous, which emphasizes Phoenix's language and her personality instead of plot. The effect of her descriptions of him has more impact on the understanding of Phoenix and her relation with the world than on plot and closure.
The ambiguity in “A Worn Path” impacts the story in several ways. It changes how the details are approached, discarding expectations. It helps the story become more immersive. It shifts the emphasis of the story from plot to the trip itself, Phoenix's personality, and the environment. It probably impacted decisions regarding the narrator. It emphasizes Phoenix's state and casts doubt on the grandson's status. Ultimately, the ambiguity in “A Worn Path” impacts how it is read, the expressive impact of the story, and the technical aspects of it.

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