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Essay on A Worn Path - Eudora Welty

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Phoenix Jackson in Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" has been compared to the mythological phoenix because of her birdlike qualities, and it's also been noticed that Phoenix possesses many of the same characteristics as Christ. But, what hasn't been addressed is the fact that Eudora Welty didn't just leave the symbolism to Christ alone. Welty also included many biblical allusions as well. Phoenix Jackson is not only symbolic of the mythological bird that rose from the ashes of its own demise or simply a Christ figure comparable to the Son of God, but she is also a biblical hero facing temptation and trials along her journey and succeeds unharmed and steadfast in her faith.

Since Welty's tale is such a simple one, readers are forced to find the more obvious symbolism and then must delve deeper into the text to find the more meaningful symbols. In the second paragraph, Phoenix's skin is described as having "a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles as though a whole little tree stood in the middle of her forehead." An obvious example of Christ symbolism is the tree being a symbol of life and knowledge gained through the acceptance of Christ. Further analysis of the tree symbol could also conclude that like Christ, trees provide shelter and protection while remaining patient and impassive and still harbor an appearance of imperialistic grace. Most would probably be content to continue comparison between Christ and Phoenix, but one small, almost unnoticed action separates the two. "Her fingers slid down and along the ground under the money with the grace and care they would have had in lifting an egg from under a sitting hen. Then she slowly straightened up, she stood erect, and the nickel was in her apron pocket...Her lip...


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... ailment and she knows that "faith will heal the sick" (James 5:15). Phoenix is so confident in her faith that even while traveling through silent cornfields, crossing streams, and braving a swamp, she makes the journey with her eyes firmly clamped shut. For as it says in Scripture, "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).

For such a simple tale, "A Worn Path" is full of hidden symbols and allusions. By realizing that Phoenix Jackson is a biblical character as well as a Christ figure, Phoenix assumes a more human image. Rather than carrying the image of a gentle demigod, Phoenix's sin allows readers to relate to a concerned grandmother who is doing everything in her power to heal her ailing grandson. But, I am sure that most will agree with me that "all things have a fervent love for one another for 'love will cover a multitude of sins'" (1 Peter 4:8).


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