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What is the point of view in "A Worn Path" and what evidence supports this answer?

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strwbrry | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 15, 2009 at 4:34 AM via web

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What is the point of view in "A Worn Path" and what evidence supports this answer?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 16, 2009 at 1:38 AM (Answer #1)

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Eueora Welty's "A Worn Path" is told from the third-person objective point of view.  Welty employs this point of view which does not reveal as much of the character as do first and omniscient points of view so that the reader may perceive Phoenix less as a person and more as a symbolic, even mythical, character.

That she is a symbolic and myth-like character is evidenced, first of all, by her name which suggests the mythological bird that continues to live by rising from its ashes.  As the old woman traverses fields and streams, she falls again and again, but gets up each time so that she can continue her "worn path" and procure the medicine for her grandson. 

Lest the objective point of view be too plain and not convey the symbolic meanings of this story, Welty employs language rich with metaphor and symbolism.  For example,

But she sat down to rest.  She spread her skirts on the bank around her and folded her hands over her knees.  Up above her was a tree in a pearly cloud of mistletoe.  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.

The old woman's talking to herself also aids in characterization without revealing her inner reality as does first-person and omniscient narrator:

'You scarecrow,' she said.  Her face lighted. 'I ought to be shut up for good,' she said with laughter. 'My senses is gone.  I too old.  I the oldes people I ever know.  Dance, old scarecrow,' she said, 'while I dancing with you.'

This objective point of view also serves to indicate the old woman's simple acceptance of her condition in life.  She is "too old," but she will continue going the "worn path" as long as her grandson lives, for she is simply the only one that he has to care for him.

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