Symbolism in Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path"

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Eudora Welty’s short story “A Worn Path” describes the journey of Phoenix Jackson. Phoenix is an elderly black woman who shouldn’t be making such a treacherous journey. But what drives her you might ask? The reader doesn’t find out until the end of the story that she makes this journey every year, “as regular as clock work” (34), to get medicine for her ailing grandson. Some might say that this story is about the love and endurance of a loving grandmother. But after being asked if her grandson is dead, she seems hesitant as if she is trying to gather her thoughts. If her grandson were in fact dead, why would she be making this journey? Is Phoenix Jackson’s grandson really dead? Throughout Phoenix’s journey, she talks to the animals to stay out of her way and out from under her feet. She seems to have the most connection with the birds that are among her: the bob-whites and the mourning doves. Her command to the bob-whites to “keep out from under [her] feet,” indicates the struggle of her love and also her fear. “Her feet have slipped into the groove of habit, and she trusts them to take her where she wants to go” (Hardin). She trusts her feet more than her senses knowing that they will lead the way, rather than leaving it up to her memory, which tricks her, causing her to relapse on the memory of her grandson and whether or not he is really gone. She hears the mourning doves cry, “and it registers in Phoenix’s mind that it is “not too late” to mourn, as she begins the ascent out of the hollow: (Hardin). According to Sharon Hardin of Eastern Illinois University:

“The mourning dove’s reminder perhaps still echoes in her mind near the top of the hill, and not for the first time at this point on the path, she feels compelled not to continue. The mourning dove’s reminder of death and with it the futility of her going on pulls at her to stay and not go. She agonizes, “Something always take a hold of me on this hill – pleads I should stay”. Thoughts of death in...
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