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Immortal Ideas In "A Worn Path"

2313 words - 9 pages

Upon a first reading of Eudora Welty’s, “A Worn Path”, it appears to be a simple story about an old woman going into town to procure medicine for her sick grandson, who has swallowed lye (Welty 3). After further readings and doing research, the deep meaning and depth of the story becomes apparent. The worn path is much more than a routine route regularly traversed into town and back to home. The protagonist Phoenix Jackson has many more layers than the way she is perceived as an apparent no account drifter, charity case, whose only reason to head into town is to see Santa Clause (Welty 2). There is significant meaning behind the interactions with people, places, and objects that Phoenix crosses paths with on her journey into town. Every interaction and situation presents Phoenix with the opportunity to learn and grow as a person and as a culture. The sick grandson represents more than a sick boy at home waiting for medicine to heal his physical ailment (Welty 3). Welty uses a myriad of symbols to tell the story of the long and arduous journey blacks take going from slavery to free Americans. A journey that takes lifetimes of accumulating knowledge, gaining wisdom, and then passing everything learned to the children. The next generation builds on to, and hones the gained wisdom and further refines the knowledge as they pass it on to the next generation. It is the gained wisdom that is constantly reborn like the Phoenix in mythology (Mercantante 527). In, “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty, Phoenix Jackson symbolizes the past and present population of black Americans and the worn path represents her experiences and the wisdom she has gained, soon to be reincarnated in her grandson, the future generation of black America.
The characters name Phoenix in world mythology describes a bird that lives 500 years, dies, and then is reborn from its own ashes (Mercantante 527). Welty uses imagery to link Phoenix to a bird (Welty 2). Her cane makes a sound “like the chirping of a solitary little bird (Welty 1)”. She stole a coin the same way she would have “lifted an egg from under a sitting hen (Welty 3). Her grandson, the future Phoenix, “Peeps out from his little patch quilt, holding his mouth out like a little bird” (Welty 6). Phillips describes Phoenix Jackson as not being aware of having “a mythic dimension” and the journey itself as having “archetypal depth” (419). The title “A worn Path” and not “The Worn Path” puts the meaning on a way of life as opposed to the directional way (Keys 354). The path in the story Is overgrown, which contradicts a trampled worn path like the one the title implies.
Although on the surface Phoenix is just running errands out of “the deep-grained habit of love” (Welty), it is her experiences on the path that she and the future generations will learn to most from (Harris 492). After she dies, all of the knowledge and wisdom Phoenix has acquired will be reborn in the future generation of black America through...

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