Symbolism of a Journey

Topics: Eudora Welty, Short story, First-person narrative Pages: 7 (3017 words) Published: February 11, 2013
Symbolism Of the Journey
Life is a series of journeys that lead to experiences. Those experiences shape individuals and the perceptions of others. People relate to literature in different ways depending on their life experiences. Symbolism often effects how one relates to a piece they have heard or read. Symbolism is something that has a literal identity but also stands for something else—something that is widely understood and had been developed over a long period of time or by common agreement (Clugston 2010). In literature a journey of any kind usually symbolizes life. Living is individual to all people which mean that the interpretation is different for everyone. This paper will analyze the symbolism of the journey in Eudora Welty’s short story, “A Worn Path” and Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”. The symbolism of the journey in these two literary works is different. The main character in “A Worn Path”, Phoenix Jackson, is in the midst of a journey and the persona in “The Road Not Taken” is at a cross roads of two paths, one is a journey out of necessity and one a journey not yet taken. This paper will identify the differences in the symbolism of the journey in these two pieces with relation to the content, the form and the style, both different in many ways but both about a journey of life. In the story “A Worn Path” the content is developed by many detailed descriptions of the main character and the setting in which she is travelling in on that cold December morning. In a review of her own work, Eudora Welty said that the story originated from her seeing a solitary old woman similar to Phoenix walking in a winter country landscape (Welty 1974, p.219). In the story she further develops the character by describing her as very old and small, wearing a long dress and an apron made of sugar sacks, her head tied with a red rag. This description gives the mind’s eye a clear picture of the person that Eudora saw on that winter day as she walked slowly through the dark shadows of the pines. Phoenix is carrying a cane and an umbrella, the cane to steady her step as she moved from side to side like a pendulum in a grandfather clock and the umbrella to protect her from any weather she may encounter on her cold winter journey. In contrast, the poem “The Road Not Taken”, the narrator only describes two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and a choice that must be made to embark on a journey in either direction, leaving the reader to become the one who takes the journey. The journey, however, is known immediately in the poem rather than in the short story the setting is still taking form. The journey in “The Road Not Taken” is revealed along with regret that a choice must be made. Robert McPhillips said that “The Road Not Taken” is an imaginative grappling with the inevitability of travelling simultaneously two seemingly diverging paths which, on closer observation seem the both meeting in the mind of the traveler (McPhillips 1986, p.83). As Phoenix’s story develops the reader is given more insight as to how old she is with the description of her skin with a pattern of numberless branching wrinkles, this foreshadows the likelihood that she has had many experiences and journeys in her lifetime and none have been detrimental to her existence and the story comes upon her in yet another experience. The journey is symbolized similarly in both works because there is the path that is before the traveler and a path that has already been travelled by Phoenix in her old age. The form of both works is very different; “The Road Not Taken” is a poem while “A Worn Path” is a short story. The obvious difference is the length of each piece. “The Road Not Taken” is twenty lines, throughout four stanzas in contrast to the ninety-seven paragraphs of “A Worn Path”. Another difference is the use of the literary element of a plot which is present in “A Worn Path” and not in “The Road Not Taken”. The one...
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