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In Welty's "A Worn Path," with her mythological name, Phoenix emerges anew repeatedly with determination to pursue her journey, or quest, to obtain medicine for her suffering grandson. In his critical essay, "Life for Phoenix," Neil D. Isaccs contends that Welty's narrative is the story of the path of life and "the road is death and renewal of life."
As she travels this path of life, Phoenix, who at times appears to be a "magic figure," attempts to affirm the meaning to life as she parts her way "through the whispering field" with her wand of a cane and as she faces a Cerberus-like black dog, yet making her way past the "shadows from the oak trees." Despite her imaginings and falls in which she rolls like "a June bug," Phoenix perseveres, trusting her feet over her poor eyesight and reaches Natchez, where she then climbs "a tower of stairs" that reaches to the hospital. There, the old dying woman renews life for her swaddled grandson by obtaining medicine for him.
The mistakes and falls of the old woman are suggestive of the "worn path" of age that nears its death. But, with the eternal cycle of life, her death has as its purpose the renewal of life. Like her nomenclature, the Egyptian figure of immortality and resurrection, Phoenix succeeds in her journey.
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