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Symbolism in A Worn Path by Eudora Welty

Symbolism in A Worn Path by Eudora Welty

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...

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