Study Guide

A Worn Path Narrator Point of View

By Eudora Welty

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Narrator Point of View

Third Person (Limited Omniscient)

While Phoenix is making her way along the Natchez Trace, the narration follows her thoughts closely, giving us a running commentary from Phoenix.

She talks to herself:

"Seem like there is chains about my feet, time I get this far,' she said, in a voice of argument old people keep to use with themselves. 'Something always takes hold of me on this hill—pleads I should stay." (5)

She talks to her surroundings:

"You scarecrow," she said. Her face lighted. "I ought to be shut up for good," she said with laughter. "My senses is gone. I too old. I the oldest people I ever know. Dance, old scarecrow," she said, "while I dancing with you." (26)

We're even privy to her imaginative daydreams:

But she sat down to rest. She spread her skirts on the bank around her and folded her hands over her knees. Up above her was a tree in a pearly cloud of mistletoe. 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. (14)

In short, all along the path, we are privy to the inner-workings of Phoenix. Our narrator hops right into her head, revealing her perspective on her journey often.

But something odd happens once Phoenix enters the doctor's office in town: We are suddenly closed off from Phoenix's interiority; her dialogue with herself and the world around her stops. Two characters in the story, the attendant and the nurse, even show frustration at Phoenix's silence. The attendant impatiently asks, "Are you deaf?" (73) when Phoenix does not answer her questions, and the nurse remarks, "You musn't take up our time this way, Aunt Phoenix […] Tell us quickly about your grandson and get it over with" (83). Odd, right? Why the sudden change?

When Phoenix arrives in town, she is thrown into a social structure in which she has very little influence as an old, poor, and uneducated black woman. She has no economic, political, or social clout. So in the doctor's office, she no longer seems to be Phoenix Jackson, heroic journeyer, bound and determined. Instead she is a charity case battling futilely against her grandson's hopeless illness with no real power or control to make him better. Voice is often a sign of power and control, and since town affords her neither, it makes sense that we are closed off from her voice and perspective in this setting.

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