Conflict in Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path”In Eudora Weltys “A Worn Path” the conflict was not apparent at the
very beginning. What was a poor, elderly sick woman doing gallivanting
in the forest during the dead of winter? The reason became clear towards
the conclusion of the story as the action revealed that the conflict was
obtaining the necessary medicine for her grandson. When this conflict
became obvious, another question came to mind. What kind of society did
this woman live in that she had to go all the way from her home in the
countryside to the city by herself to get the medicine? The conflict
being illustrated is that of an individual versus society and the four
problems that Phoenix faces as a result of this was her old age, her
health, her grandsons health and her state of poverty.
“Her eyes were blue with age. Her skin had a pattern all its own of
numberless branching wrinkles” (paragraph 2).
This quotation was one of many indications of Phoenix Jacksons old
age. Normally, in society there are benefits for the elderly and those
of the golden age. There are various organizations that help people who
are over the age of sixty-five. They also provide various services
towards them such as meals on wheels. Was there not someone who could
have delivered the medicine to this woman of nearly 100 years of age?
Perhaps Phoenix Jackson was too shy or had too much pride to ask for a
service of that nature. The doctors from the medical building knew about
the condition of Phoenixs grandson and did nothing to try and help.
This showed the lack of respect that was present in the society. In
todays society, someone of that age commands and deserves the proper
“She carried a thin, small cane made from an umbrella, and with this she
kept tapping the frozen earth in front of her,” (paragraph 1).
The next conflict that plagued her is that of her health. In the
preceding quotation, there was one important note that readers should
take into consideration. The fact that she kept persistently tapping the
earth in front of her could only indicate one thingthat she was
visually impaired. She may not have been completely blind, but she had
to have been substantially impaired to have kept tapping her cane in a
redundant manner. Someone who is even remotely visually impaired should
not be traveling in the forest. Phoenix also suffered from a problem
that often plagues people at an old age. This problem is senility.
“But she sat down to rest She did not dare to close her eyes and when a
little boy brought her a plate with a slice of marble-cake on it she
spoke to him. “That would be acceptable,” she said. But when she went to
take it there was just her own hand in the air,” (paragraph 15).
This was just one out of many instances in the story where Phoenix
talked to herself and had
hallucinations. Talking to ones self in the forest is a definite sign
of senility. Phoenix did not allow her two disabilities to get in her
way, but had society cared for her properly she would have been in an
institution for the elderly. As for her grandsons health, the readers
know that he also, was not doing well. The only pertinent information
given was that he “swallowed lye,” (paragraph 91). He, also, should have
been receiving professional care. An American society in the nineteen
fortys did not provide free health care, and that sets up the final
conflict, the state of poverty of Phoenix Jackson.
“Its Christmas time, Grandma,” said the attendant. “Could I give you a
few pennies out of my purse?”
“Five pennies is a nickel,” said Phoenix stiffly,” (paragraph 100)
This quotation, a conversation between Phoenix and the attendant at the
medical building, came after Phoenix had arrived at the doctors office
and had already received her medicine from the attendant. Phoenix was
not ashamed to ask for the extra pocket change so that she could buy her
grandson a windmill made out of paper. That nickel was the second nickel
that she had managed to obtain. The first five cents was basically
obtained through theft. She distracted a hunter she had met in the
forest so that she could pick up a nickel that he had dropped. Phoenix
had no reason to be ashamed of the ten cents that she had acquired
through begging and stealing. Her perspective was that society had no
respect for her, so why should she have respect for society?
In conclusion, poverty was probably the main conflict out of all the
other four mentioned. Had she not been poor, she would have been able to
afford proper care for herself and her grandson and would therefore be
living a higher standard of life. Had she not been poor, she could have
paid for a cab ride to the city or she could have paid for delivery of
the medicine. She would not have had to beg for meaningless nickels.
Without money society doesnt care for you and has therefore no respect
for you no matter how old you might be.