The story can be thought of as a kind of road trip. Phoenix
travels over many different kinds of surfaces, from sand, to wagon trails, to sidewalks. She also encounters many obstacles along her path, from the thorns to the stream crossing, to the hunter
, and the lone dog. Some of the obstacles are foreseen; most are surprises to her. These shifting elements of the path she walks symbolize Phoenix’s life, with its many and nearly constant difficulties, and yet it also symbolizes the way that, through perseverance, Phoenix has been able to slowly carve out a path through those difficulties, even if it is faint and tenuous. Further, it is possible to see the symbol of the worn path as representative of not just Phoenix’s life, but also the lives of all Southern black people – an encapsulation of the idea that it is both brutally hard and also vital and possible to wear down a path to a better life despite terrible obstacles.