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The Journey of Life
As I began to read this short story about a painful and tedious trek an aged grandmother endures she has made for the last three or four years to the city with one intention in mind, to get a medicine for her chronically ill grandson. On a cold December day she repeats the same journey again. As we read, it appears to be about a long journey the woman has made throughout the entire story, but by carefully examining the theme, it tells us that there is a greater message than just a long trek. In the story “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty, an old woman whose human spirit is full of dedication, dignity and high morale overcomes tremendous obstacles of life in the name of love.
Phoenix Jackson is the protagonist of the story who is an African- American woman, old and probably disabled. As one person says in the story “You must be hundreds years”(Welty, p365) addressing Phoenix. All of these characteristics are the evidence that the journey is not going to be easy, but her faith in God and strong relation with nature accommodate her on the way. She understands nature by designating it as a “guardian” when her dress gets caught in the bush. “Thorns doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass”(Welty, p364), says Phoenix while taking her dress carefully out of the bush. When she has difficult times such as fatigue and the fall in the bush, she addresses to God by reaching her hand to Him, but nothing reached down to her. It is not her time to leave the Earth yet, so God sends her a hunter, instead, for help. With her belief in God, her goal to finish her journey and her love for her grandson, she conquers all obstacles on the way.
The most difficult obstacle on her way is a young white man who actually helps her stand up when she falls, but he still poses as a great danger to her because of his prejudiced beliefs against black people. Eudora Welty creates two protagonists of opposite race for the purpose of showing racial discrimination in society. By meeting Phoenix and the hunter can get into societal conflict if Phoenix becomes aggressive against his attitude. Yet, she avoids any verbal and physical confrontations and still manages to get even in the game.
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In the beginning of the century hardly any crime was justified by society, especially if it was committed by a person of a minority group. By stealing five cents from the hunter, Phoenix risks her life. She distracts him with a black dog long enough for her to pick up the nickel and put it in her pocket. The hunter who finally has a chance to exhibit his superiority rushes to get rid of the black dog. Even though the hunter is distracted by his challenge, if he catches Phoenix stealing, she may become a substitute for that black dog. Yet, Phoenix believes that her actions are excusable by her necessity, which refers to financial needs as well as her love and care for her grandson. When the hunter and Phoenix go their separate ways, she sees a bird flying by and thinks to herself, “God watching me the whole time. I come to stealing”(Welty E., p.366). There are Ten Commandments in the Bible, and one of them forbids stealing. However, Phoenix’s difficult experience of slavery and her financial situation are above any law of society or the Bible which justify her actions and perform as a payback for the difficult times in her life.
Unlike many people who would feel weak and helpless if someone pointed a gun at them, Phoenix stands with pride and courage. When the hunter points a gun at Phoenix’s face, she remains calm and even controls the confrontation. Her difficult life’s experience as an African-American woman who lived through slavery makes her spirit strong. Eudora Welty shows that strength through Phoenix’s answer “I have seen plenty [guns] go off closer by, in my day, and for less than what I done”(p.366). It was not the first time that she has faced death, and she is not going to be scared of that selfish man who believes that everyone and everything should be afraid of him. However, this old woman, who seems to be the weakest victim ever, and should be scared to death of the hunter, looks straight in his eyes telling him that she has no fear of him. The hunter is impressed by her attitude of being so physically weak and spiritually strong that even he can’t break that strength. She is victorious with her inner power, which consists of her love, experience, dignity and wits.
Life is a pathway we all must journey. Just like in the story, we come across many obstacles in the way that may throw us out of control or even make us lose courage. It those difficult moments, we need miracles to restore what has been damaged such as relationships, career, financial stability or health. What can these miracles be? They can be love for people around, dedication to achieve goals, prayer to God who will give us hope, and wits to make the right decisions. We need people like Phoenix whose name symbolizes a bird that had lived for five hundred years, bringing people good news and hope for happiness, hope for miracles and a better future.