A Worn Path

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There is no question that Welty knew what she was doing when she chose to name the main character of “A Worn Path” Phoenix Jackson. A Phoenix is a mythological creature that lives for five centuries before burning to ashes. After burning, the creature rises back to life as a young bird from these ashes and the cycle repeats itself without end. That Phoenix shares a name with such a creature reflects her indefatigable nature, her constant striving towards her goal, as well as her unflagging optimism and high spirits. The name also suggests Phoenix’s longevity: though the story takes place in 1941, she was already too old in 1865 to go to school. Like a phoenix, too, she makes her journey again and again without failure. Finally, the phoenix was also seen as a symbol for Christ, who was also resurrected. And so Phoenix’s name also marks her as a Christ figure in the story.
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