Eudora Welty's 'A Worn Path' is a story that emphasizes the natural symbolism of the surroundings. As the story begins, we are introduced to our main character, Phoenix Jackson; she is described as a small, old Negro woman. I believe that the name Eudora Welty gives our main character is very symbolic. The legend of the Phoenix is about a fabled sacred bird of ancient Egyptians. The bird is said to come out of Arabia every 500 years to Heliopolis, where it burned itself on the altar and rose again from its ashes, young and beautiful. Phoenix, the women in the story, represents the myth of the bird because she is described as being elderly and near the end of her life. Phoenix can hardly walk and uses a cane made of an old umbrella to aid her. Her skin is described as old and wrinkly, but yet with a golden color running beneath it 'Her skin had a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles and as though a whole little tree stood in the middle of her forehead, but a golden color ran underneath?(55). Her skin tone represents the golden feathers of the Phoenix and her grandson represents the next Phoenix that will be given life when she dies. The trip to the city to get the medicine represents the mythological trip that the Phoenix takes to the sun to die. Most likely this journey along a worn path through the woods, will be one of her last.
We are told of Phoenix?s journey into the woods on a cold December morning. Although we are know that she is traveling through woodland, the author refrains from telling us the reason for this journey. In the midst of Phoenix?s travels, Eudora Welty describes the scene: ?Deep, deep the road went down between the high green-colored banks. Overhead the live-oaks met, and it was as dark as a cave? (Welty 55). The gloomy darkness that the author has created to surround Phoenix in this scene is quite a contrast to the small Negro woman?s positive outlook; Phoenix is a very determined person who is full of life. As Phoenix begins to walk down the dark path, a black dog approaches her from a patch of weeds near a ditch. As he comes toward her, Phoenix is startled and compelled to defend herself: ?she only hit him a little with her cane. Over she went in the ditch, like a little puff of milk-weed? (55). Here, the author contrasts the main character?s strong will with her small, frail phys...
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...ppen to you? (57). I believe that this line represents a change that has occurred within the hunters mind. He no longer is trying to prevent her from her journey, while he still tells her to stay home, he know she is bound to go on. After there meeting he realizes how strong her will is and lets her go on her way. ?I bound to go on my way, mister? (57) Phoenix tells the man, and they go off in different directions.
Strength is the only reason Phoenix accomplished her journey and Phoenix's love for her only living relative is her greatest strength of all. Although the old Negro woman suffers from many handicaps, she starts her journey mentally prepared for the obstacles awaiting her. Phoenix uses her inner strengths and prevails over every barrier. She relies on her trustworthy feet to make up for her impaired vision. Her wit makes up for her frail body. Her determination makes up for her aged memory. But most of all, her love for her grandson her keeps her going. Clearly, the frail, forgetful, and loving old woman can overcome anything.
Welty, Eudora. "A Worn Path." The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980. 142-49.
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