How are language and setting used in "A Worn Path" to reveal the narrator's reaction towards old Phoenix?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first paragraph is loaded with symbolism. It is a "bright" and "frozen" day. The brightness suggests hope and the cold suggests death or an inability to move. She walks with "heaviness and lightness" so she is agile but heavy and old. The sound her cane makes is a "grave and persistent noise in the still air, that seemed meditative like the chirping of a solitary little bird." The sound is "grave" (serious and with an allusion to death) but also signifies life, as illustrated by the image of the bird. These paradoxical themes are throughout the story. Phoenix is old and slow but determined and able. The setting is cold and dark, but with moments of light ("bright"), suggesting hope. Phoenix is so old that she is close to death ("grave") but her resilience invokes the spirit of life. The ongoing dichotomy of life and death relates to the myth of the phoenix, a bird which could burn and regenerate from its ashes. So, the name Phoenix brings together these different dichotomies, particularly with life and death. 

So, the narrator's treatment of Phoenix is informed by these dichotomies. Phoenix is old and frail but strong in her determination. She is close to the "grave" but she is still full of life. Phoenix is therefore heroic in that her determination is in spite of her old age and the difficult journey. This is why the descriptions of the setting are significant. Phoenix makes the journey in spite of the obstacles: the barbed-wire fence, thorns, and the ditch.