Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" tells the story of Phoenix Jackson, an elderly black woman living in the early to mid twentieth century. Phoenix's struggle to once again travel a difficult passage through the country into town for her ill grandson's medicine is well represented by the story's title. The significance of the title of "A Worn Path," however, lies in its complexity and in its many interpretations.
The most obvious interpretation of the title's meaning is a reference to the path itself. Within the context of this particular interpretation, the keyword "worn" in "A Worn Path" implies that this path has been traveled many times before by Phoenix. Evidence of this is found in the nurse's familiarity with Phoenix and in her remarks at the doctor's office: "Oh, that's just old Aunt Phoenix She makes these trips just as regular as clockwork. She lives away back off the Old Natchez Trace" (869). Further evidence of this is not as apparent, but is exhibited in Phoenix's excellent familiarity with the arduous passage. Having lived so long Phoenix is forgetful of many things, including her reason for heading into town in the first place: "It was my memory had left me. There I sat and forgot why I made my long trip" (870). And yet her sense of direction on the path comes automatically. Indeed the "path" is "worn" as a result of Phoenix's repeated trips to the town for her grandson's well being, and driven by her love for him, she will most likely make the travel the "worn path" again.
The title can also be interpreted as a reflection upon Phoenix Jackson's lengthy and undoubtedly difficult life. Taking the setting of the story into account, it is reasonable to assume that Phoenix as a black woman would have led a very challenging life up to that point. Welty's description of her early on in the story is enough to paint a picture of an old, tiered and overworked woman: "She was very old and small.