Please explain the significance of the worn path in Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path."

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The significance of the physical, titular path that Phoenix Jackson uses to get to town when retrieving medicine for her grandson is that it illustrates the love and commitment that Phoenix has to her family. Phoenix is perfectly familiar with every aspect of the path, seeming to have cataloged every...

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The significance of the physical, titular path that Phoenix Jackson uses to get to town when retrieving medicine for her grandson is that it illustrates the love and commitment that Phoenix has to her family. Phoenix is perfectly familiar with every aspect of the path, seeming to have cataloged every step based on what it represents for her arduous journey. She approaches certain moments with a warm familiarity and others with a resolute but still present dread, saying "now comes the trial."

Even though Phoenix is in no physical condition to be making such a journey, she still makes it "like clockwork," and others on the path have become familiar with her. In fact, the only reason she is able to complete her journey is because people in the city recognize her, even though she has forgotten why she is there.

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The worn path can be interpreted as a symbol of Phoenix Jackson's enduring love for her grandson, as she travels this difficult way—even deep into her old age—in order to procure the medicine that will comfort but never cure him. However, the worn path of the story can also be interpreted as a symbol of Phoenix Jackson herself. She is quite old, has some trouble seeing, has a faulty memory, and even uses a cane to help her walk. Her gait is compared to the "pendulum in a grandfather clock" even associating her with time, as she has lived through so much of it. She says that she was "'too old at the Surrender'" to go to school, and we can assume this means that she was close to grown when the Civil War ended and she was freed from slavery. Phoenix's very life is a worn path; she has done so much and experienced so much and endured so much.

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The primary symbol in Eudora Welty's short story "A Worn Path" is, in fact, a path. A worn one. Old Phoenix Jackson walks this path often as she goes to town to get medicine for her grandson, and it is both worn and familiar. In fact, she knows all the animals and all the arduous terrain along the path. At one point, she reaches a tenuous bridge which she must cross, and she does so with her eyes closed. 

At the foot of this hill was a place where a log was laid across the creek.

"Now comes the trial," said Phoenix.

Putting her right foot out, she mounted the log and shut her eyes. Lifting her skirt, leveling her cane fiercely before her, like a festival figure in some parade, she began to march across. Then she opened her eyes and she was safe on the other side.

In the literal sense, then, the path is worn because she walks it often. Though it is December and the ground is frozen, Phoenix Jackson walks this path. When it is steamy and hot in the summer, we know Phoenix Jackson will walk this path, as well. She has traveled it, and, though she is old, she will continue to travel it.

In a figurative sense, this worn path is the evidence of Phoenix Jackson's love and commitment. Though she is best suited to her mountain cabin, Phoenix Jackson will venture to the city--where she does not fit in and is often treated poorly--because she loves her grandson and will do what she must to care for him. This is a journey of love, and she makes it willingly.

Her physical journey is symbolic of her emotional journey which demonstrates her love for a chronically sick little boy who is her life. The title encompasses both aspects of the worn path.

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