Symbolism In A Worn Path

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While symbols are everywhere in the world, some are well known and others are unfamiliar. Like, in Eudora Welty’s vividly imaginative short story, “A Worn Path”, symbolism can be seen throughout. “A Worn Path” tells the tale of Phoenix Jackson-an African American woman-who deals with the oppression from whites during the mid-1900’s. Phoenix Jackson’s grandson has swallowed Lye and it is time for her to obtain his medicine from town. She begins her journey to town on a cold early morning in December. Phoenix dreads this year round journey because she is very old, partially blind, and can hardly walk without a cane. The author points out, “She carried a thin, small cane made from an umbrella and with this she kept tapping the frozen earth in…show more content…
A phoenix is mythological bird that turns to ashes upon dying and is born again from the ashes. It represents our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it. Phoenix Jackson uses her sensory information to get across the log in the pinewoods. The author notes, “Putting her right foot out, she mounted the log and shut her eyes. Lifting her skirt, leveling her cane fiercely before her, like a festival figure in some parade, she began to march across. Then she opened her eyes and she was safe on the other side” (234). Also, the phoenix is sometimes pictured in ancient and medieval art as endowed with a nimbus, which emphasizes the bird’s connection with the sun. Like the coloration of the phoenix bird, Phoenix Jackson’s appearance in the story is similar. Welty writes: Her eyes were blue with age. Her skin had a pattern of 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, and the two knobs of her checks were illuminated by a yellow burning under the dark. Under the red rag her hair came down on her neck in the frailest of ringlets, still black, and with an odor like copper.…show more content…
Phoenix struggles on her journey to town facing many obstacles. After getting passed all of the hurdles and much more, she unfortunately encounters a young, white racist hunter. First, he refers to her as granny and then tells her to go home. After she refuses to leave, he makes racial comments to her. To illustrate the hunter’s racism the author writes, “I know you old people colored people! Wouldn’t miss going to town to see Santa Claus!” (237) Next, he points a gun at her but does not pull the trigger and Phoenix is not threatened at all; she is used to the oppression from whites. Eventually, the hunter goes on about his business unaware that Phoenix steals the nickel that falls out of his pocket. Sadly, Phoenix is accustomed to being treated this way by whites and has no authority to change it. In the story, she finds herself daydreaming of the day there is no racism. According to the author, “She did not dare to close her eyes, and when the little boy brought her a plate with a slice of marble-cake on it she spoke to him. `That would be acceptable`, she said. But when she went to take it there was just her own hand in the air” (234). Marble cake is black and white which represents if there was equality between the two races. Phoenix is daydreaming of being served cake by a white person but she quickly finds herself back to
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