Symbolism in A Worn Path

The story A Worn Path by Eudora Welty is one which exposes a lot of symbolism. This is exposed through the main character Phoenix Jackson. The description of the main character is carried out in a very symbolic manner. This story is viewed to be viewed to reflect the struggle of the blacks to obtain freedom. The events taking place in the story shows the details of the blacks’ struggle for freedom. This essay there examines the story by analyzing the symbolism that is exposed in the story.

The Story

At the start of the story, Phoenix is traveling along a path surrounded by some vegetation whose description resembles those of woodland. On her way, she happens to be confronted by a dog resulting to her falling into a ditch. Her weak physique is clearly exposed after her falling on the ditch. A hunter who passes rescues her and ensures that she is ok. The conversation that ensues between Phoenix and the hunter shows how Phoenix is determined to complete her journey. Though the hunter tries his best to discourage her from proceeding to town she is very determined and does not give in despite all the discouragement that the hunter heaps on Phoenix.


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A close examination of the Phoenix’s journey exposes a lot of symbolism. Phoenix, to start with, talks to herself, to the animals and even to the bushes along the way where she walks. This is typical of very old people. This is confirmed by the description that she is given by the author, “Her skin had a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles and as though a whole little tree stood in the middle of her forehead” (John, S and John, C 1448). In her talking, she complains of chains in feet. Being a black woman is taken as a sharp reminder of the slavery era.

According to Beller (2008), the journey that this woman takes resembles that one taken by pilgrims as it is full of challenges. In the course of the journey, Phoenix dreams a number of times. In the dreams she sees being handled a marble cake by the white boy and when she has fallen in a ditch she stretches her hand for help but no one is ready to help: “A dream visited her, and she reached her hand up, but nothing reached down and gave her a pull” (John, S and John, C 1445). Beller (2008) views this as symbolic of the efforts made the society in the U.S. at that time to unite the whites and the blacks. In the dreams the woman never got any assistance; she was not any marble not did anybody lift her out of the ditch that she had fallen into. This has been taken to mean the failure experienced by the efforts made to unite the whites and the blacks at that time (Westling 1452). Beller (2008) argued that in the real world this happened between the 1930s and 1940s in the south. Beller (2008) argued that the dreams were symbolic of the struggle to have racial harmony which was not realized.

Though the white hunter assists Phoenix out of the ditch the way he treated is quite symbolic of the way whites treated blacks at that time. In regard to this, the language that the young man was using to discourage her from going to town ought to be noted and the way he pointed a gun at her. It was a reminder of her relative position in the white society (Pintozzi 324). Ought to be noted is the way Phoenix reacts to the threats from the hunter. Against the expectation of the white man Phoenix is not scared at all by the threats advanced by the hunter. “He is probably surprised that she even does not shake at the sight of the gun pointed at her, she says, “No, sir, I seen plenty go off closer by, in my day, and for less than what I done” (John, S and John, C 1447). This can be taken to be symbolic of the audacity and never giving up spirit that the blacks displayed when they were fighting to attain racial harmony. The perseverance displayed by Phoenix throughout the journey is symbolic of the way blacks persevered throughout the slavery period their determination of obtaining freedom at one moment.

Upon arrival at the town, she is subjected to some kind of discrimination. But this does not really discourage her. In general, the entire journey is symbolic. The journey generally symbolizes the struggle of the blacks to attain freedom. Phoenix had enough strength to take her through the whole journey. She was prepared mentally which made up for her many physical handicaps. She has a lot of inner strength to prevail through all her struggles. This was typical of the activists who were fighting for the freedom of the blacks. They were aware of the difficulties and challenges that they were likely to go through. This seen in famous speeches given by the black’ leaders as they inspired their follows of the hard task that This helped me to withstand the many setbacks they encountered in fighting to attain freedom and equality in social grounds (Enote 1).


The short story A Worn Path displays is a clear symbol of the fight for freedom by the blacks. Many of the events that took place in the course of the journey were symbolic of the events which occurred to the blacks in the struggle to attain freedom.

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