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Provide an analysis of the point of view in "A Worn Path"?

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cheriecotter | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 16, 2013 at 2:02 PM via web

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Provide an analysis of the point of view in "A Worn Path"?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 16, 2013 at 4:37 PM (Answer #1)

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The point of view in "A Worn Path" comes from a third person narrator. The third person narrator is not omniscient and does not provide the thoughts of Phoenix or any other characters (with the exception of Phoenix's spoken lines when she is alone.) However, in describing the scenes and events, the narrator gives the reader enough information to determine traits of the characters. This style gives the reader the effect of watching the events of the story. (Had it been a first person narration, it would seem more like a narrator, or Phoenix, is telling the story from a certain point of view.) Since the point of view is from a relatively objective third person narrator, the reader forms his/her perspective out of this third person narration. While the narrator seems only to describe the facts of the events, the narrator does provide clues which, although open to interpretation, give more insight into the characters' motivations; namely Phoenix's. 

For example, in describing just the scenery and Phoenix's appearance, the narrator informs the reader about Phoenix by comparisons and juxtapositions. Phoenix is described as walking "with the balanced heaviness and lightness of a pendulum in a grandfather clock." She moves slow and heavy in her old age but she is light and when using her cane, it is "limber a a buggy whip." Phoenix is described as old and frail, but determined and resourceful. The other characters she encounters think she is a simple, physically frail person. (The rude hunter assumes she's going to see Santa Claus and the nurse considers her a charity case.) But Phoenix shows that she is resourceful when she takes the hunter's nickel and manages to get more money out of the attendant. 

The narrator uses quite a bit of bird imagery as well. "Phoenix" is the mythological bird that continually rises from its ashes. This parallels Phoenix returning again and again to get her grandson's medicine. The hunter has a bob-white, killed, in his bag. This image could imply how he is a symbolic predator. The grandson is also described in terms of being like a bird: 

He wear a little patch quilt and peep out holding his mouth open like a little bird. 

The narrator simply provides the facts of the story, but there are suggestive images which help to suggest to the reader the context and content of the characters and Phoenix's situation. 

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writergal06 | Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted September 16, 2013 at 5:06 PM (Answer #2)

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The point of view in "A Worn Path" can best be described as third-person limited, objective. The audience does see everything predominantly from Phoenix's perspective. We are only aware of people if Phoenix is aware of them, and we are only part of conversations in which Phoenix takes part. However, the narrator is also objective in the presentation. We don't know Phoenix's thoughts, for instance. When she says out loud, "God watching me the whole time. I come to stealing," we can infer that she feels badly about taking the money dropped by the man. But this is only because of Phoenix's out loud commentary. Through the limited and objective narrator, we are forced to infer many details about Phoenix's personality and character. This approach also lets Phoenix's actions speak for the narrator, allowing for more indirect characterization as well as more focus on the action of traveling the worn path rather than focusing on the internal conflict.

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