What is the foreshadowing in "A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty?

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kimfuji eNotes educator| Certified Educator


In Eudora Welty's "A Worn path" the foreshadowing that is most obvious is inthe first paragraph. See below:

"It was December—a bright frozen day in the early morning. Far out in the country there was an old Negro woman with her head tied red rag, coming along a path through the pinewoods. Her name was Phoenix Jackson. She was very old and small and she walked slowly in the dark pine shadows, moving a little from side to side in her steps, with the balanced heaviness and lightness of a pendulum in a grand-father clock. She carried a thin, small cane made from an umbrella, and with this she kept tapping the frozen earth in front of her. This made a grave and persistent noise in the still air, that seemed meditative like the chirping of a solitary little bird."

Notice how Welty describes her as moving a little from side to side like a pendulum. This part symbolizes time. It foreshadows death. The next sentence "This made a grave...that seemed meditative.." This is also foreshadowing of death.

This story is so beautiful and has many illusions to time and how time is spent and death. We, as the readers, don't know about her dying grandson until later in the story.

Later in the story, Welty writes:

"Ghost," she said sharply, "who be you the ghost of? For I have heard of nary death close by."

This is a direct foreshadowing of death close by.


reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is quite a bit of foreshadowing in the story, "A Worn Path" by Welty. Phoenix Jackson, an old woman, struggles to reach town. Along the way her struggle is foreshadowed by many obstacles. One of the first is the wild hogs. This foreshadowing is followed by the thorns: "I in the thorny bush . . . " (paragraph 8). Phoenix has to cross on a log then crawl under a barbed wire fence. If that is not enough, she walks into a field of dead corn that she calls a maze. The reader learns that these images foreshadow the difficulty she has in reaching the town to get her grandson's medicine.

Why the above foreshadowing? It serves to highlight the strength and determination of the old woman to take care of her grandson. Symbolically, these images can also serve to represent the struggles of African Americans. However, Phoenix does not die, and when she decides to purchase the small gift for her grandson, it appears they will overcome their struggles. Just as her name, Phoenix, suggests, the mythical phoenix is a bird who lived a very long time and rose from the ashes. Phoenix Jackson is still full of life and vitality despite her poverty.