Life has a knack of throwing obstacles in our way, however, giving up is an unwanted tendency that is ingrained deep in the human soul, no one captures this concept much better than Eudora Welty in The collected stories of Eudora Welty (1982). Once someone is born, by nature they tend to have a great desire to persevere, to live and to push forward no matter the circumstances that come their way. While there are many cases of people choosing to end their life because of one reason or another and known cases where people have actually committed suicide, although some leave notes documenting that they did it because of issues in their life, that is not how human were meant to be. Within them, there is a will to press on and continue fighting. The suggestion of human strength, great enough to push a man forward even in difficult circumstances, may sound far-fetched but is it?
The concept of the human strength and his unending quest to move ahead towards his goal may be disputed by many, however, from Eudora Welty’s work; we see an urge that tramples old age, poverty, and illness of a woman aiming at something. Her age and “patterned skin with wrinkles” was not enough to stop her. The entire work is dotted with great examples that prove this concept to be true over and over again, right from the opening of the story, we see a description that paints a grim picture of the harsh circumstances at that particular time. The author tells that it was a “frozen morning,” too cold and uncomfortable for anyone to be out of their warm house and still it was way too early. Well, this may just be a coincidence, one may say, but may be proceeding further with the story may just show the power of the human strength, how about we dig deeper and see.
Imagine a scenario where you are sick, unwell and down to your last dime, what is your attitude in those circumstances? Do you feel like throwing away everything and ending your life? Or do you feel like proceeding on and facing your difficulty come rain or the sunshine? Well, from A Worn Path we come into contact with an epitome of human strength. Here was a woman whose circumstances were screaming in her ear to just quit everything, to give up. But, deep down, despite her obstacles, she chose to do what anyone who down often chooses to do because of the inbuilt human strength within us. She chose to move forward no matter how small the steps may be, the character in the story, although “She was very old and small, she walked slowly” as Welty writes in the opening parts of the story (28). She may not have been high enough, but that did not deter her from going forward, for “she carried a small cane” to support her steps.
Making the decision to go forward is never enough to wish away difficulties in our path. In fact, as the story documents, the more that one proceeds with their course, the greater the obstacles that come along the way. Drawing from A Worn Path, we see that at some point in the woman’s journey to acquire medicine for her sick grandchild, there were so many things that deterred her, hindering her movement and almost making her turn back from discouragement. There were the thorns that caught her dress, and she even speaks of this, “thorns, you are doing your appointed work,” in her words, the thorns were meant to stop people from passing. But she freed herself, although it took quite some time, she was finally free. Getting over the thorny entanglement was not easy as is with most obstacles in life, for at the end “she was trembling all over” but was finally free.
Getting discouraged is very easy in life, there are many missteps, once in a while, one may fall, but it is more important to pick oneself up than stay down. However, no one is immune to pain, for this reason, when one suffers setbacks, there is nothing wrong with taking time off to cool down, mourn and get healing from the pain, for that is the nature of life. The old woman, at one point, fell into a ditch, and “so she lay there” she took a bit of time to recover her strength. The human strength and the will power to move forward may sometimes encounter a blow, but we must be wise to know when to pause and think and when to fight on. There are even times of fear on top of the pain. Fear can cripple us if we so choose, but we must always face it with boldness. In the case of the old woman, fear came in the form of “a big black dog,” but she shooed it away. At the end of it all, lies our achievement, if and only if we do not give up!
Welty, Eudora. The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1982.