A Look at the Usage of Figures of Speech In, A Worn Path by Eudora Welty


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Eudora Welty’s subjective short story “A Worn Path” expands on the ideas on facing and overcoming adversity. Welty uses dialogue and figurative language to show how Phoenix Jackson is affected by and responds to standards within her society.

Through the use of dialogue, Welty illustrates how Phoenix responds to the standards set by society. She often pushes away the stigma that the elderly are weak, helpless, and need be safe at home. This is demonstrated when Phoenix is stopped by a hunter in the woods: “‘You must be a hundred years old and scared of nothing … but you take my advice and stay home, and nothing will happen to you’” (Welty 146). Given Phoenix’s age, the hunter tells Phoenix to head on home, but Phoenix refuses to turn back and continues her journey to town. Through her rough personality she is able to establish her own foundation in the path that she walks. Later, when Phoenix reaches the doctor’s office, she again faces opposition: “‘A charity case I suppose,’ said the attendant … Phoenix only looked above her head … ‘Speak up grandma,’ the woman said … Phoenix only gave a twitch to her face as if a fly were bothering her (147). The dialogue of the attendant is rude and unsavory, but Phoenix is able to combat the harsh judgement with a silent protest. By using dialogue, Welty establishes how Phoenix can disband societal rules.

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Welty also shows how Phoenix responds to the standards expressed in her society through figurative language. Given the disrespectful nature of society and how they see the elderly, Phoenix has to respond to different situations in various ways. When Phoenix’s path was blocked she had to force her way under the tree: “there she had to creep and crawl … like a baby trying to climb the steps. But she talked loudly to herself: she could not let her dress be torn now” (143). Welty illustrates how Phoenix moved so delicately to avoid tearing her dress, and because of that the reader is able to see that Phoenix does feel like some of society’s rules must still be followed even though she is against the stereotype. Welty also uses figurative language to make situations more comical. Even though she is refusing societal standards of the elderly needing to be cared for, she reaches up for help when the hunter comes by: “‘What are you doing there?’ [the hunter asked]. ‘Lying on my back like a June-bug waiting to be turned over, mister,’ she said, reaching up her hand” (145). By describing Phoenix as a Junebug, Welty is able to establish how Phoenix is able to make light of her stumbles. She instinctively puts her hand out for help displaying how society has forced the ideas of the elderly needing help into habit. Although Phoenix is combating the ideals of society, she is unable to avoid the instinctive habits that she has grown so use to. Through the use of figurative language, Welty displays Phoenix’s dementia in a way that gives the reader insight to the life that Phoenix has lived with her disability and how it has made her a stronger person.

Through the use of dialogue and figurative language, Welty is able to show how and why Phoenix responds to various situations. With the help of dialogue and figurative language, Welty establishes the youth that Phoenix preserves and how she is affected by and responds to standards within her society. In the short story “A Worn Path,” Welty institutes how self-reliance can overcome society’s ideas regarding the roles of women.

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