What are five conflicts in "A Worn Path"?

The central conflict in "A Worn Path" is Phoenix Jackson's struggle with her society. A lesser conflict is her struggle against the natural elements that create additional challenges for the old woman on her long journey.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty is about an elderly woman named Old Phoenix who travels along a familiar path to get medicine for her grandson. There are many obstacles that she faces along the way, and different types of conflict are present within the story. Man versus man conflict is shown through the challenge of her having to take care of her grandson. They are the only two people each other has, so she must endure this difficult journey regularly to get medicine for his throat after he swallowed lye a few years ago. Man versus self is shown through her age and frailty. She has trouble walking, and uses a cane to do so, and this works against her as she has to traverse dense forests and hills. Man versus animal is shown several times throughout the story, but one of the most obvious examples is the large black dog that appeared unexpectedly. Because of the scare, she falls into a ditch despite how friendly the dog is. The most common type of conflict within this story is man versus nature. Some examples of this are the hill she has to climb, during which, “Something always take a hold of me on this hill—pleads I should stay,” the thorny bush that catch her dress, the log she must use to cross the creek, and getting through the corn maze without a path.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As I've noted in other questions asked about "main conflict" in stories, I've always found that its easiest to deem the answers when looking at the Themes of a novel. The theme will tell you what the characters had to overcome, what the author is trying to get across. The themes for A worn Path include Race and Racism, Duty and Responsibility, Guilt, and Resurrection. Now to come up with the conflicts, think about why that is a theme, and what it meant to the story. For instance, with Race and Racism as a theme, you know that the main character Phoenix in this case, had to deal with it, and in this case it hampered her ability to continue with her journey-thus, racism (or the white hunter and his subtle racism) is a main conflict in the story. In Duty and Responsibility think about why Phoenix is walking into town with her bad eyesight, etc... to get medicine for her grandson. As you can see, using the themes is a great way to get to the main conflicts of a story.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the conflict in "A Worn Path"?

In "A Worn Path," Phoenix Jackson is on a journey to obtain much-needed medicine for her grandson. The central conflict she faces is with her society, yet she also faces conflict with nature as she travels.

Although she is an old woman, Phoenix must endure a long and physically demanding journey in order to reach town. Her society offers no real means of assistance for this determined grandmother. Although she is a fairly regular client at the medical facility, no offer is willing...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

to take the medicine to her. Instead, the doctor has instructed that "as long as [she comes] to get it," she is allowed to have it. The story was published in the early 1940s, which means that Phoenix doesn't have access to a personal automobile or even public transportation. Additionally, no effort is made to educate the staff about this poor woman's regular trips to the office; hence, when she first arrives, she is met by a woman who insults and yells at her. Along the path, Phoenix must also face the hunter, who represents the racist attitudes which are prevalent in her society. He attempts to intimidate her with a gun and then instructs her to head back home so that "nothing will happen to [her]." Nevertheless, Phoenix keeps moving in the direction of the medical clinic.

Nature also presents a conflict along her journey. Along Phoenix's path, she yells out for the wild animals to stay out of her way. She climbs hills and must balance across a log in order to cross a creek. The physical landscape of the journey presents numerous challenges for Phoenix, and though she is a tired woman at the end of the story, readers also realize that she must endure the entire journey in reverse in order to take the medicine back home to her grandson.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on