A Worn Path

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A Worn Path Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Eudora Welty's A Worn Path. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Eudora Welty
Eudora Welty grew up in a close-knit family and received her undergraduate education at Mississippi State College for Women in Columbus and the University of Wisconsin. She also did graduate work at Columbia University School of Business. She published her first story, “Death of a Traveling Salesmen” in 1936, to much acclaim. A writer of both short stories and novels focused predominantly on the American South, she was particularly famous for her short stories, though she also won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Optimist’s Daughter in 1973. In her later years she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the French Legion of Honor. She died of cardio-pulmonary failure after a short illness at the age of 92.
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Historical Context of A Worn Path
Though “A Worn Path” was written in 1941 and seems to take place at that time period, Phoenix Jackson was born in the antebellum South, a period before the Civil War when slavery was legal in the United States. The end of the Civil War in 1865 and the adoption of the 13th Amendment in the same year marked the end of slavery. The following years until, until 1877, are classified as the Reconstruction era, during which the federal government transition Southern states back into the Union. The story, however, takes place in 1941, when Jim Crow laws were fully in effect in the Deep South. These were state and local laws that were put into effect after Reconstruction that allowed unequal and segregated treatment of blacks and that great disadvantaged black people in every sector of society.
Other Books Related to A Worn Path
“A Worn Path” bears some commonalities with works of fiction by writers including William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, and Flannery O’Connor, who deal with the questions and consequences of racial tension in the United Sates South, often through characters, like Phoenix Jackson, who are unusual or are outsiders in their communities.
Key Facts about A Worn Path
  • Full Title: A Worn Path
  • When Written: 1940
  • Where Written: Mississippi
  • When Published: February 1941
  • Literary Period: Realism/Southern Gothic
  • Genre: Short Story
  • Setting: From Old Natchez Trace to Natchez, Mississippi
  • Climax: Phoenix raises her “free hand”
  • Antagonist: White society
  • Point of View: Third person limited (Phoenix Jackson)
Extra Credit for A Worn Path

Odd Jobs. Immediately after college, Welty worked at WJDX radio station, wrote society columns for a local newspaper, and was a publicity agent from the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression.

Photographer. Before writing fiction, Welty was a photographer who was even exhibited in New York. However, it was not until 1971 that her first book of photographs was published.