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I said I wasn’t going to read criticism until I’d been all the way through Welty’s work at least once.  This doesn’t count, though, because it is an essay she wrote herself.  In my mind, it’s most definitely in the “her work” column.  It also offers interesting insight into her story “A Worn Path.”


She says this question of whether the grandson might be dead is the one she’s received the most from students and teachers.  Sadly enough, teachers are like that.  They all tend to talk about the same things.

Lucky for us, Welty got fed up enough to give us the answer to the question, which is a question in itself, “Why does it matter?” 


In her mind, she says, the child is not dead because everything we know about him we know from his grandmother, and the grandmother believes him to be alive.  Shouldn’t that suffice?


It’s an intriguing response.  I think it is even more interesting that she says it doesn’t matter if he is dead or not because either way the story doesn’t change.  I see her point, though I’m not so sure about that.  She also tells us, “The emotional value is the measure of the reach of the story.”  How the reader feels about it is what matters.


In that case, I’d say the reader might feel quite different about the story knowing the child is dead.  Phoenix’s laborious walk would certainly seem creepier to me.  Her reliability as a filter for the story would also be in question along with her sanity.  However, I do see what Welty means.  That’s not what this story is about.


The story is about Phoenix, not about the child.  It’s about her journey.  It’s about her love and dedication.  It’s about the hardship she willingly and methodically endures to provide for the child she loves.  It’s about the fact that she keeps going despite the odds for the sake of her love for this child.

It’s about lots of things, but it’s not about whether the child is dead, so says Miss Welty.