Symbolism in a Worn Path

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Symbolism In Life and Death
Jennifer Candis
ENG 125
Ms. AltfeldFisher
June 13, 2011

The short stories A Worn Path by Eudora Welty and Used To Live Here Once by Jean Rhys both carry the theme, symbolism of a journey. In both writings the authors used people, places and things to symbolize something extra, expanding the stories into more than just what is read. I chose these stories because they both consist of strong symbolic references to life. Each story was written in a third-person point of view and consisted of a journey made by the main characters, which in both cases happened to be a black woman. Although in one story the character was already dead and in the other, fighting death, there are many similarities between the stories told. In A Worn Path, Phoenix Jackson is an elderly woman that encroaches on what appears to be a physically demanding trek through the forest. Already, the symbolism begins with the name of the woman. A phoenix is a mythical Egyptian bird symbolizing immortality and resurrection that rises from its own ashes and creates another phoenix (N. Isaacs, 1963), symbolizing the perseverance of life. Right away, the reader is made aware that Phoenix’s character is a fighter. It becomes more apparent throughout the story. Phoenix is facing death in her old age and refuses to give in. Along her journey, she reaches a hill and she says, "Something always take a hold of me on this hill– pleads I should stay," (Journey Into Literature, R.W. Clugston, 2010). I believe it is suggested at this point that she questions her strength to press on, not only against the hill but also against death. Her decision to accept this challenge shows her strength and determination live on. Once Phoenix had made it “up through pines,” she then faced the challenge of, “down through oaks” (R.W. Clugston, 2010), in which time a bush snagged the dress she had worn. This could be suggestive of an obstacle or deterrent that any person could face...
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