What is the meaning of the short story "A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty?

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Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” touches on a few different themes. The story shows the strength of love and perseverance. The trip she makes along the worn path to Natchez to get medicine for her sick grandchild is not an easy one. The path was icy, she had to watch out for wild hogs, and even wriggle under a barbed wire fence. She falls into a ditch because of a mean dog. All of this must be extremely difficult for a frail, elderly lady. Yet she makes the journey because she loves her grandson, and the strength of that love gives her the physical strength to persevere. Additionally she perseveres in other ways in everyday life. She cares for a child with a damaged throat and endures living in poverty.

A minor theme is racial prejudice, another hardship Phoenix Jackson must endure. The white hunter who helps her out of the ditch calls her Granny in a condescending tone and enjoys showing power over her by pointing a gun at her. The white shopper calls her “Grandma,” and the nurse calls her “Aunt Phoenix.” But they do still treat her with a small degree of kindness and sympathy, as when the nurse gives her a nickel. The story takes place around 1940, before the Civil Rights Movement.

Despite her exhaustion, Phoenix makes the difficult journey in order to help her grandson. She even uses her precious few nickels to buy him a paper windmill, a simple toy that they could not afford. Her love gives her direction, purpose, and strength.

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