A Worn Path: Short Summary

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A Worn Path is the story of an elderly woman who takes a long path to town in order to get medicine for her grandson. The elderly woman, Phoenix Jackson, is the main character of the story and she overcomes many trials and tribulations to reach her goal. The story seems simple, an old black woman walking through the woods towards town on some errand, but layers of symbolism add meaning to every part of this story. Take for instance the name Phoenix Jackson: The Phoenix is a bird of legend from ancient Egyptian times, a bird that would fly to the sun to be reborn in flames every 500 years. Ms. Jackson represents that ancient avian, she makes her pilgrimage to town so that she may be "reborn" through her grandson who will carry on after she passes.

Another example of symbolism in A Worn Path is the path itself. For an elderly lady like Ms. Jackson this path represents a no mean amount of challenges; she walks uphill through a pinewood forest, and downhill through oaks; she walks across a stream on a fallen tree; and even….falls into a ditch? In short, she does things a woman of her age ought not be doing; yet she does them for the sake of her grandson. The path itself represents life, and the uphill/downhill is trial and tribulations, or possibly it means that life is slow and difficult in the beginning but gets easier and goes by faster towards the end. The animals that Ms. Jackson shoos away with her cane show that she won't put up with anything getting in her way, and when she gets ensnared by the thorns she picks herself free proving that she will only stop for as long as she must when she IS caught. In essence, Ms. Jackson proves that despite her age she is still filled with youth and love for her grandson.
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