Conflict in Eudora Welty\'s "A Worn Path"


In Eudora Welty’s "A Worn Path" the conflict was not apparent at the
very beginning. What was a poor, elderly sick woman doing gallivanting
in the forest during the dead of winter? The reason became clear towards
the conclusion of the story as the action revealed that the conflict was
obtaining the necessary medicine for her grandson. When this conflict
became obvious, another question came to mind. What kind of society did
this woman live in that she had to go all the way from her home in the
countryside to the city by herself to get the medicine? The conflict
being illustrated is that of an individual versus society and the four
problems that Phoenix faces as a result of this was her old age, her
health, her grandson’s health and her state of poverty.

"Her eyes were blue with age. Her skin had a pattern all its own of
numberless branching wrinkles…" (paragraph 2).

This quotation was one of many indications of Phoenix Jackson’s old
age. Normally, in society there are benefits for the elderly and those
of the golden age. There are various organizations that help people who
are over the age of sixty-five. They also provide various services
towards them such as meals on wheels. Was there not someone who could
have delivered the medicine to this woman of nearly 100 years of age?
Perhaps Phoenix Jackson was too shy or had too much pride to ask for a
service of that nature. The doctors from the medical building knew about
the condition of Phoenix’s grandson and did nothing to try and help.
This showed the lack of respect that was present in the society. In
today’s society, someone of that age commands and deserves the proper

"She carried a thin, small cane made from an umbrella, and with this she
kept tapping the frozen earth in front of her," (paragraph 1).

The next conflict that plagued her is that of her health. In the
preceding quotation, there was one important note that readers should
take into consideration. The fact that she kept persistently tapping the
earth in front of her could only indicate one thing—that she was
visually impaired. She may not have been completely blind, but she had
to have been substantially impaired to have kept tapping her cane in a
redundant manner. Someone who is even remotely visually impaired should
not be traveling in the forest. Phoenix also suffered from a problem
that often plagues people at an old age. This problem is senility.

"But she sat down to rest… 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," (paragraph 15).

This was just one out of many instances in the story where Phoenix
talked to herself and had
hallucinations. Talking to one’s self in the forest is a definite sign
of senility. Phoenix did not allow her two disabilities to get in her
way, but had society cared for her properly she would have been in an
institution for the elderly. As for her grandson’s health, the readers
know that he also, was not doing well. The only pertinent information
given was that he "swallowed lye," (paragraph 91). He, also, should have
been receiving professional care. An American society in the nineteen
forty’s did not provide free health care, and that sets up the final
conflict, the state of poverty of Phoenix Jackson.

"It’s Christmas time, Grandma," said the attendant. "Could I give you a
few pennies out of my purse?"
"Five pennies is a nickel," said Phoenix stiffly," (paragraph 100)

This quotation, a conversation between Phoenix and the attendant at the
medical building, came after Phoenix had arrived at the doctor’s office
and had already received her medicine from the attendant. Phoenix was
not ashamed to ask for the extra pocket change so that she could buy her
grandson a windmill made out of paper. That nickel was the second nickel
that she had managed to obtain. The first five cents was