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Literary ElementsWhat are some literary elements in the story "A Worn Path"? For...

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vbgirl14 | Student, Grade 10 | eNoter

Posted October 10, 2010 at 7:25 AM via web

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Literary Elements

What are some literary elements in the story "A Worn Path"?

For example, allegory, allusion, forshadowing, hyperboles, onomatopoeia, metapohor, etc.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 10, 2010 at 10:23 AM (Answer #2)

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In the first paragraph there is an excellent piece of imagery where Phoenix Jackson is compared to a pendulum:

She was very old and small and she walked slowly in the dark pine shadows, moving a little from side to side in her steps, with the balanced heaviness and lightness of a pendulum in a grandfather clock.

This simile therefore describes her movement.

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted October 10, 2010 at 11:54 AM (Answer #3)

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Pheonix's name is an allusion to the mythical bird that in its life time burns up in flames and then rises again from its own ashes to become a strong and fierce bird once again.  This is certainly witnesses through the story when Phoenix overcomes various obstacles, such as the threat of the white man, and seems renewed in her perseverance in getting to town for the medicine for her grandson.

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hadley818 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted October 10, 2010 at 7:28 PM (Answer #4)

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The "worn path" is a symbol for Phoenix's love for her grandson. Phoenix faces the challenges of the cold weather, rough terrain, white hunter, and patronizing people at the doctor's office so that she can get medicine for her ill grandson. The title suggests that this path is worn from Phoenix making the journey over and over again. Phoenix will make this "journey of love" as long as she has the ability to walk.

The description of Phoenix in the second paragraph is striking:

Her skin had a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles and as though a whole little tree stood in the middle of her forehead, but a golden color ran underneath, and the two knobs of her cheeks were illumined by a yellow burning under the dark. Under the red rag her hair came down...


Phoenix, who shares her name with the mythical bird that rises from its own ashes, is described using colors that might resemble the bird (yellow & red).


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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted October 10, 2010 at 8:07 PM (Answer #5)

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There are many elements in the story form the protagonist's name of Phoenix, symbolizing the mythical creature that arises from its own ashed every 500 years, to the worn path, the doctor's office, the people she meets along the way, and the obstacles she has to overcome just getting to the doctor's office to obtain medicine for her grandchild(?).

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 10, 2010 at 8:15 PM (Answer #6)

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I've always liked the nickel as a symbol in "The Worn Path," as it points out a contrast which is one of the major themes in this work.   This is a poor woman in the strongest sense of the word, and when she furtively picks up and keeps that nickel, despite her guilt at having done so, we understand her selfishness.  In contrast, this is a poor woman who, despite every possible physical and emotional obstacle, is as unselfish as one can possibly be.  The nickel serves as a reminder of those two things in this story, as it's not for herself that she takes and keeps the coin.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 11, 2010 at 11:38 PM (Answer #7)

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Situational irony is found in the story's conclusion when Phoenix arrives at the office to get the "soothing medicine" for her grandson. After making her long, arduous, and life-threatening journey, she cannot remember for a time why she has come. Her age works against her, of course, causing her memory to fail, but the irony is strong.

Another, more subtle, irony works to develop the story's beautiful theme. In her society, Phoenix Jackson lives as a person of little value and no influence: She is a poor black woman, very old and uneducated. Thus, she belongs to five "groups" that  place her at the bottom rung of the social ladder. Strangers call her "Grandma," not Mrs. Jackson, and she endures other incidents of disrespect, and even cruelty. In truth, however, Phoenix is an extraordinary human being, a woman of strength, compassion, dignity, endurance, courage, and integrity. This is the greatest--and most significant--irony in "A Worn Path."

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted October 22, 2010 at 1:57 PM (Answer #8)

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Perhaps two of the most significant symbols are the character's name Phoenix and the worn path itself. The Phoenix is a mythical bird that rises renewed from the ashes every 500 years. This is definitely something that Mrs. Jackson has had to do over and over again. The renewal part might be debateable. The worn path is one she has traveled her entire life as she has always been one of the least significant members of the society in which she lives.

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