Welty, "A Worn Path" (52)
Take a look at the quest theme outline on the handout from class. Is Phoenix on a quest? Justify your answer. What is Welty’s message (theme) to her readers? What symbols do you find, and how do they connect to the theme?
You meet Phoenix as she begins a long quest to a town near her home. She is an elderly woman. Her eyesight isn't very good and she moves at a slow and steady pace along a very well used path. While on this journey she talks to herself giving herself advise while also cursing her old age. She makes this trip regularly according to the nurse to retrieve medicine for her grandson who swallowed lye years before.
Phoenix makes this trek alone to the surprise of those she meets along the way all for the safety of her grandson. She overcomes obstacles like balancing on a log to cross a stream, untangling herself from thorns, struggling through barbed fences. All seem small tasks to us but are extremely difficult for her to accomplish due to her age. Halfway through her journey she is confronted by a large black dog. When she tries to bat it away she falls into a ditch unable to get herself back up onto her feet. This could have been the end of her quest if it hadn't been for a hunter who found her and helped her. Even this meeting is a challenge the hunter questions why she is out walking such a long ways alone. And when the hunter drops a nickel she tricks him into making his dog chase the big black one away so she can grab it. When the man comes back he points his gun at her and asked if the gun scared her. When she answered no he commemorated her bravery and Phoenix is finally able to continue on her way.
Phoenix' name symbolizes her long life and perseverance like the mythical bird who was said to live a long life and burst into flames hen rose from it's ashes to begin again. There is also symbolism in the challenges she over came like the thorn bushes that could be a sign of hidden danger when at first glance...
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