In her short story "A Worn Path," Eudora Welty tells the story of one old woman in a way that from the beginning raises questions which engender suspense in what is really a simple tale made more complex by the characterization and by the way information is revealed in the course of the story. Symbolism is used to extend the meaning and convey attiutdes and ideas by analogy. The title itself sets the tone, for the reader can see that the actions of the old woman have been taken before, that this is the worn path referred to, and that what is important is why that path is worn. The author tells the story primarily from the point of view of the old woman:
The setting is the 'worn path' of the ancient Natchez Trace, and the story presents the greatest myths in the context of a folk tradition (Appel 137).
The old woman keeps her own secrets and her own counsel, and it is necessary that her background be revealed by a different source. The nurse serves that function.
Eudora Welty was born in the South of this story, in Jackson, Mississippi, and she spent nearly her entire life there. She offers a more tranquil view of the South than, say, William Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor. In her fiction, she tends to celebrate her characters' small victories, and this is evident in "A Worn Path" where the ability of this old woman to make her way some distance through a rural area to the town in order to get medicine for her grandson is depicted as a triumphant act. Welty does not do this in a way that is overly celebratory or maudlin, however, and instead she uses the technique of action without explanation to create questions in the minds of her readers until the answers are revealed.
From the beginning of the story, the reader finds that the combination of this setting and this old woman raises a question--why is she making this trip? Welty creates the setting in a few words with her first sentence: "It was December--a br...