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In reference to "A Worn Path," how do I make a distinction between the voice of the...

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pugliesec | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 16, 2011 at 7:50 AM via web

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In reference to "A Worn Path," how do I make a distinction between the voice of the narrator and author?

I am writing a paper on "A Worn Path" and have to identify the voice of the narrator, author, and character(s), and how they relate to an overall theme.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 16, 2011 at 9:05 AM (Answer #1)

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In some stories and novels, the author clearly identifies himself as a voice in the narrative; The Scarlet Letter comes to mind as good example. In many works, a character within the story or one who has knowledge of the events of the story serves as narrator, relating and interpreting events as he experienced, observed, or learned about them. Identifying the narrator's voice is not difficult because the narrator has an established identity and definite point of view. In other stories, like "A Worn Path," the voice we hear is not identified specifically as that of the author or a separate narrator, and it becomes more difficult to determine whose voice we are hearing.

"A Worn Path" is told primarily in the third-person limited point of view, relating what Phoenix Jackson says and does, but the story occasionally does take an omniscient view of Phoenix:

Down there [in the ditch into which she had fallen], her senses drifted away. A dream visited her, and she reached her hand up, but nothing reached down and gave her a pull.

At another point in the story, Phoenix imagines a little boy handing her a piece of marble cake on a plate, "but when she went to take it there was just her own hand in the air." In these instances, Eudora Welty takes the reader into Phoenix Jackson's mind, detailing specifically what she thinks and imagines, which rules out any narrator other than the author, who has assumed omniscient knowledge.

The question then becomes whether or not Welty speaks in a voice inconsistent with her own in telling the story. Her Southern background, personal interviews, and themes developed in other works do not suggest that she has. All of these facts, taken together, would support the idea that in this story there is no distinction between the voice of the author and that of the narrator.

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