Example of symbolism in a worn path by eudora welty essay

Eudora Welty uses extensive symbolism in her short story, A Worn Path, as she chronicles the life of a fictional character by the name of Phoenix Jackson; Phoenix is described as a small and old woman of African-American descent (Welty 222). To begin with, the name Welty chooses to assign the story’s protagonist is in itself a very compelling symbol since it takes its purchase from a mythical tale (Jones 19; Donlan 549). The name Phoenix refers to a mythical bird that was considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians. This bird is fabled to have had the peculiar character trait of renewing itself with fire periodically (Suhr 30). According to the popular Arabian myth, the Phoenix would come to Heliopolis from the depths of Arabia every 500 years for the ritual of renewal (Hill 61). During this time, the bird would characteristically burn itself to death, before emerging from the ashes renewed.
The foregoing description can be analyzed from several key aspects. First, Welty considers the name Phoenix to be the apt description of the protagonist as she is old and essentially living out her twilight years. This is analogous to the mythical bird, the Phoenix, in that the bird’s ritual of renewal was in recognition of the fact of old age. Similarly, the protagonist has a grandson who is slated to usher in a renewed generation of the now aged and frail Phoenix. This is a further reiteration of the symbolic fall and subsequent rise of the mythical bird, also considering the fact that the protagonist is implicitly aware of her mortality; she indeed heads out to the city as a sign of resignation from her life to pave way for her grandson.

Works Cited

Donlan, Dan. “ A Worn Path: Immortality of Stereotype.” English Journal 62. 4 (1973): 549-550. Print.
Hill, John Spencer. “ The Phoenix.” Religion & Literature 16. 2 (1984): 61-66. Print.
Jones, William M. “ Eudora Welty’s Use of Myth in Death of a Traveling Salesman.” The Journal of American Folklore 73. 287 (1960): 18-23. Print.
Suhr, Elmer G. “ The Phoenix.” Folklore 87. 1 (1976): 29-37. Print.
Welty, Eudora. “ A Worn Path.” Critical Inquiry 1. 1 (1974): 222-228. Print.