Eudora Welty and Jean Rhys Essay

Submitted By Sarah-Thomas
Words: 2279
Pages: 10


Symbolism of the Journey: “I used to live here once and A worn path”
Sarah Sanderson
Amy Myer
November 18, 2013

Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” and Jean Rhys’s “I Used to Live Here Once” concentrate on one specific theme which is “Journey”. While the two works display comparable themes the difference is point of view. Each of them has shown a particular journey through which life can change. There is one thing in common in these two works; no matter what journey a person takes there are a lot of obstacles in the way to dissuade them and ultimately find that love is the end result in which they make that voyage. Each of the works has different characters and setting. The common ground is the voyage in which they take to reach their journey's end. As we look into the story of “A Worn Path”, an older woman named Phoenix Jackson starts her journey at a long path towards town talking to her-self along the way to distract from the very reason why she is going into town. Her perseverance is touching in that her reason for going into town is for her grandson who scarred his throat years beforehand swallowing poison, specifically lye. According to Merriam-Webster’s definition, lye is a “strong alkaline liquor rich in potassium carbonate leached from wood ashes and used especially in making soap and for washing” (M.W. 2013). Accidentally swallowing this substance could result in esophageal stricture, or in other words, your throat can be badly burned and may not be treatable. In this Journey we see the symbolism in her name, Phoenix, which is a mythological bird who lived five hundred years and burned in a tree fire, but arose again from the ashes (Cummings, 2011). Phoenix Jackson is like this mythical bird in that she “arose from the ashes of the Civil War” to lead a long and rewarding life. Birds are a prominent feature in the story; they symbolize Phoenix and her grandson. They resemble God and of death. In the opening paragraph it is indicated that Phoenix is like a “solitary little bird”. Phoenix also compares her grandson to a “little bird” with his beak open, waiting to be fed (Lister, 2007). In other words, the birds
SYMBOLISM OF JOURNEY 3 symbolize life and death. I believe it resembles the grandson’s health being in between; if he doesn’t get the medicine he needs he could possibly die soon. It is also directed that the grandson is weak and would need the assistance of some things, such as being fed. Phoenix’s love for her grandson makes it conceivable for him to get the help he needs. As explained by Cummings, the Natchez Trace is an overland trail between Nashville, Tennessee, and Natchez, Mississippi. In the early 1800s, it was a "worn path" that promoted progress (Cummings, 2011). Phoenix walking this particular pass represents the progress she made going from point A to point B, and her determination and love of her grandson made it all worthwhile. Now as we look into the short story by Jean Rhys, “I Used to Live Here Once”, this character’s name is not mentioned. “She crosses a stream, using the stepping stones she still remembers well, and approaches her old house. In the garden, she sees a young boy and a girl under a mango tree and calls to them twice, but they do not answer. When she says hello for the third time, she reaches out, longing to touch them. The boy turns to her, looks her directly in the eye, and remarks how cold it has suddenly become, and he and the girl run back across the grass into the house. The story ends with the pregnant sentence ‘That was the first time she knew’” (as cited by Aubrey & Rollins, 2001, pg 1-4). Her destination is the house in which she used to live in and her determination is caused by the happiness she felt and the love for her own home and the surroundings when she lived there. As she takes her short journey across the stream she notices things misplaced or missing. At