Lesson Plan

Study for A Worn Path by Eudora Welty

A worn path at Dogwood Valley
A worn path at Dogwood Valley, milepost 275.2

NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Seventh Grade-Eighth Grade
Language Arts
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
The student will apply strategies and skills to comprehend, respond to, interpret, or evaluate a variety of texts of increasing length, difficulty, and complexity. The student will express, communicate, evaluate, or exchange ideas effectively.
metaphor, simile, allusion, allegory, short story, Literature, Eudora Welty, a worn path


"A Worn Path,” is a short story written by Eudora Welty in 1940. The story is set on the Natchez Trace and the town of Natchez, MS. The protagonist is Phoenix Jackson an elderly African-American woman who goes on a heroic quest to procure medicine for her ill grandson.  Students will read “A Worn Path,” complete a comprehension quiz, discuss the layers of metaphor, simile, allusion, and allegory utilized by Welty.


Enduring Understanding: Authors do not always say what they mean and may use literary devices such as allegory, metaphor, simile, and allusions to add depth to their stories. 

Essential Question: What is this author saying when she does not really say it? 

Objectives: 1. The student will use word recognition and vocabulary (word meaning) skills to communicate.

2. The student will apply strategies and skills to comprehend, respond to, interpret, or evaluate a variety of texts of increasing length, difficulty, and complexity.

3. The student will express, communicate, evaluate, or exchange ideas effectively.

4. The student will apply Standard English to communicate.



Eudora Welty was a Mississippi author who was born and died in Jackson, MS. She wrote extensively about the Natchez Trace, living near the 'Old Trace' for most of her life. She has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom, a National Book Award, National Medal of Arts, and is a member of the French Legion of Honor, among many other awards. She claimed to have written "A Worn Path" after seeing a women walking down the Natchez Trace near Jackson. She imagined the life of the woman, where she might be going, and why. 

 "A Worn Path" is a story that is set on the old Natchez Trace and the southern Mississippi town of Natchez. The Natchez Trace is an ancient trail that served as a main artery for commerce, war, exploration, mail, lawlessness, and westward expansion. Many of the slaves imported to the cotton belt were marched down the Natchez Trace from the eastern plantations. It is inferred that Phoenix Jackson was emancipated by the civil war, settled near the Natchez Trace and uses it, as many did, as a country road to get to 'town,' in this case Natchez. The part of the trace that Phoenix is walking through is unique for the loess soil that eroded to many feet deep. She would have been surrounded by 500 year-old live oak trees covered in Spanish moss, long-leaf pine barrens, shallow bayous, and abandoned plantations. She is travelling to Natchez to a clinic to get medicine for her grandson who suffers from lye poisoning, a common ailment in those days in that part of the country. Children would mistakenly drink lye dissolved in water (a cleaning agent). The caustic liquid would destroy the lining of the esophagus, often leading to a slow and painful death from malnutrition. A physician of the day, Chevalier Jackson, fought congress to pass a law making lye manufacturers print a warning label on their product. It is possible that Welty named Phoenix Jackson after this man. Some interesting facts to discuss in class are:How do people refer to Phoenix? 'Grandma' was a term white skinned people used as a term of respect for dark-skinned old women. 'Aunt ___,' however was a term African-Americans used as a term of respect for elders. Does this mean the nurse at the clinic was African-American?


This lesson includes quizzes, discussion materials, and worksheets for A Worn Path by Eudora Welty.

NOTE: The teacher will have to supply the story, as the story itself is not included here. A search on the internet may produce a copy of the story.



Student quiz (see materials)

Participation in class discussion

Complete the metaphor/simile chart

Short essay

Park Connections

The Natchez Trace is part of Pheonix's path.


Satire: Youtube satires of A Worn Path

Have pairs or groups of students make their own satire of A Worn Path.

Have students film or act out a metaphor.

Visit the Natchez Trace Parkway. Coordinate with a ranger to walk a section of the Natchez Trace. Imagine Phoenix Jackson's journey, read excerpts from the story, act out a skit, find sections of trail that look like you imagined from the story.

Additional Resources

See an interview with the author here:


More Resources:





metaphor, simile, allusion, allegory, pullets, Natchez Trace, phoenix, myth, lye, commemorate, loess soil

Last updated: April 2, 2018