Path By Welty
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 respect. “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

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Welty, Eudora. “A Worn Path.” Writing About Literature. Brief
Eighth Edition. Edgar V Roberts Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall,
1995. 196-201.

English Essays