Her character, calculating from her age, has lived through all the developing stages of the status of blacks. Phoenix dreaming about but obvious she had yet to see of the day when children from her background, like her grandson, would have the same status, hold equal education and other opportunities as the white children growing up in the south, Phoenix herself not being allowed to be educated even after slaves where set free.
It is ironic that, at the point in the story when Phoenix walks into the town which she and her fellow African-Americans help build more than any of the white population living there, the celebrations, the wealth and the excesses accompanied with the Christmas festivities all seemed indifferent to her these events excluded herself and her kind. The fact that she had seen it all had given her a very driven spirit, strength, and courage that usually leaves people in the final stages of their life.
On numerous occasions throughout her journey she exhibited these qualities, whether it was in the form of command over the wild creatures, the woods, the perseverance climbing uphill, the patience detangling herself from the Jason Martinez Martinez p. #4 English 102 Slaughter 6-25-12 thorns, the courage crossing the log over the creek, or the resistance from hopelessness even after falling down into the ditch. When the white huntsman who had helped her out of the ditch
pointed a gun at her to see if she would despair, she stood calm and dignified, and exclaimed she had seen many die for no crime, so she wasn’t afraid. Many critics agree to the point that the name Phoenix itself is symbolic, of the bird that rises from the ashes as a symbol of rebirth. Another symbolism that analysts have drawn from the context around her is that of the mistletoe “representing immortality” (Piwinski 1) under which she rests after crossing the creek, defining the overcoming of all hurdles as well as encompassing the selfless love and compassion for her grandson.
However it is clear from her increasing loss of senses and easily delirious mind that her strength is slowly failing her and it won’t be long when such a treacherous journey as she takes on regularly, might bring an end to her. The only thing that scares her though, throughout the course of events is when she forgets the purpose of her trip, forgets about her grandson and fails to answer the attendant or nurse, later exclaiming: “I not going to forget him again, no, the whole enduring time” as if reassuring herself, again reminding the reader of Phoenix’s strength.
The symbols in the literature are incorporated into all three elements that make up a story the context, time and place, and the characters and the events. The course of events that take Phoenix to the town, her interactions with the white people on the way and at the doctor’s office, paint the two dimensions of a picture the meeting point of which is the old women herself. The part of the journey through the woods is apparently a fight against the obstacles of nature the Jason Martinez Martinez p. #5 English 102
Slaughter 6-25-12 past, which she has endured. Even when she talks to herself she uses references like “seem like there is chains about my feet” to identify her troubles of present with those of old times. Like the troubles of the blacks after the Second World War, she gets herself caught in thorns “never want to let folks past”, as the blacks having attained freedom from slavery got oppressed by bills demanding segregation of blacks and whites in public spaces and narrowing their economic opportunities down to none.
The second part of Phoenix journey is based on her encounters with the people of the present society the now, reflecting the racism and belittlement the blacks and particularly an elderly black like herself faces. First the huntsman, who although helping her out, mocks her all the same, laughing and pointing a gun at her out of amusement. The word “Granny” or “Grandma” that is repeated to her throughout the day signifies the fact that the white people that did come into contact with her saw her as no more than that, an old black.
Her struggles with life, her journey and her purpose were of no concern to them unless they were obliged by some responsibility, which they grudgingly fulfilled. Similarly her encounter with the lady who tied up her laces in the street was an obligation fulfilled unsympathetically. The nurse in the doctor’s office, although knowing of her troubles, her long journey her sick grandson who would not improve, remained uncompassionate making a charity without any of the emotions or sincerity that must go with it.
These sum up to illustrate her thoughts, perceptions, and encounters with other characters demonstrate a theme of impending black equality in the south after the civil war (Sykes 3). Jason Martinez Martinez p. #6 English 102 Slaughter 6-25-12 Dean Bethea reflects on another possible interpretation of the events that take place, especially in the context of the Christmas season, which strengthens the fact that the setting does
nothing to reflect the ‘spiritual rebirth’ that the holiday symbolizes. All lessons of love and compassion regardless of skin color, or any other discrimination seemed to have been lost to the people she ran into. Their charity was a duty, their celebration cold to any feeling, unable to see beyond skin color none of them feel anything for Phoenix, an old women in the cold, with hardly enough clothing to keep her warm, embarking on a journey that could well take her life someday.
The only compassion and sensitivity we see throughout the story is that of the old woman towards her grandson, the same love that keeps her intent on continuing her journey, making it frequently “just as regular as clockwork” as the nurse tells us, despite her own growing weakness and loss of faculties. “We is the only two left in the world” apparently describes their having no one but themselves, but is interpreted as the only two characters that care about each other by Bethea.
The symbolism incorporated in the short story combines a long and oppressive history, a struggling present, and future full of disparity for Phoenix and her grandson. The themes point out the heartlessness of society, the discrimination on the basis of color, which Christianity had long ago called off, and the superficial celebration of religious events that symbolize so much more. The irony of the journey that is implanted into the history and the society of the story give it all a deeper meaning.
These beautiful meanings revealed by use of symbols in this piece of Jason Martinez Martinez p. #7 English 102 Slaughter6-25-12 literature will leave its journey resurrecting for many years to come giving Phoenix and “A Worn Path” well earned immortality.
Jason Martinez Martinez p. #8 English 102 Slaughter 6-25-12 Work Cited Bethea, Dean. “Phoenix Has No Coat: Historicity, Eschatology, and Sins of Omission in Eudora Welty’s ‘A Worn Path. ’” International Fiction Review 28. 1-2 (2001): 32. Piwinski, David J. “Mistletoe In Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path.. ” Anq 16. 1 (2003): 40-42. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 June 2012. Sykes, Dennis J. “Welty’s The Worn Path. ” Explicator 56. 3 (1998): 151. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 June 2012.