A Worn Path

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The Paper Windmill Symbol Analysis

The Paper Windmill Symbol Icon
At the very end of the story, newly equipped with two nickels, Phoenix decides to buy her grandson a paper windmill. While before she has been concerned only with practicalities, her newfound money—a kind of economic freedom—allows Phoenix to think about a wonder of the world that she can give to her grandson. Though the windmill is beautiful, it is also something that harnesses nature into energy, and reflects the hope that her grandson might use his natural abilities, now that they are both free, to some greater good. However, the fact that the windmill is paper reminds us that the hope is a fragile one, and one that is contingent on historical and social forces beyond Phoenix and her grandson.

The Paper Windmill Quotes in A Worn Path

The A Worn Path quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Paper Windmill. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race and Class Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harcourt Brace edition of A Worn Path published in 1982.
A Worn Path Quotes

“This is what come to me to do…I going to the store and buy my child a little windmill they sells, made out of paper. He going to find it hard to believe there such a thing in the world.”

Related Characters: Phoenix Jackson (speaker), Grandson
Related Symbols: The Paper Windmill
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:
Phoenix has received the medicine and the attendant has offered her a nickel, an act of charity in keeping with the Christmas season. Phoenix accepts the money and resolves to buy her grandson a paper windmill, reflecting that he won't be able to "believe there such a thing in the world." Phoenix's plan reveals her selflessness and generosity, and undercuts any suspicions the reader might have developed (particular during the hunter's nickel scene) that Phoenix was partly out for her own material gain. Not only her decision to buy the windmill, but the entire trip to town in the first place has been in service only of her grandson. Despite her absolute poverty, she never considers putting herself above him. Phoenix's anticipation at her grandson's shock upon receiving the windmill is similarly moving, highlighting the scarcity of their lives by claiming that such a simple, fragile object will bring him such intense joy. 
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She lifted her free hand, gave a little nod, turned around…Then her slow step began on the stairs, going down.

Related Characters: Phoenix Jackson
Related Symbols: The Worn Path, The Paper Windmill
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

Phoenix has resolved to buy her grandson a paper windmill, announcing that she will hold it in her hand for him to see as she returns home. In the final sentences of the novel, she lifts her "free hand" to indicate this plan, and slowly begins her walk to buy the windmill and, ultimately, to return home. The ending of the story, rather than bringing any firm resolution, emphasizes the perpetual struggle of Phoenix's life. Having finally completed the long, arduous trip into town, only moments later Phoenix is faced by the prospect of journeying home again. However, by raising "her free hand," Phoenix demonstrates her ability to overcome this hardship and retain the ability to remain dignified, courageous, and free.

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The Paper Windmill Symbol Timeline in A Worn Path

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Paper Windmill appears in A Worn Path. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Worn Path
Race and Class Theme Icon
Perseverance and Power Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Nature and City Theme Icon
Human Dignity Theme Icon
...taps her cane on the floor, and declares that she is going to buy a paper windmill for her grandson, that “he will find it hard to believe there is such a... (full context)