One thing you could do is trace the symbolism related to Phoenix's name. A phoenix is a type of magical bird that, when it reaches old age, bursts into flame and is then reborn from the ashes. There are a number of places in the text where the narrator describes...
One thing you could do is trace the symbolism related to Phoenix's name. A phoenix is a type of magical bird that, when it reaches old age, bursts into flame and is then reborn from the ashes. There are a number of places in the text where the narrator describes either Phoenix herself or objects with either birdlike or burning imagery.
For example, Phoenix has a "golden color" running underneath her skin and cheeks that are "illumined by a yellow burning under the dark." Thus, she seems imbued with a special kind of life and light, as if she is lit up from within. Further, as she walks through the forest, the pine cones "dropped as light as feathers" around her. She talks about how she walks "Up through pines, [and] down through oaks," just as a literal bird would fly through the trees. As she walks, her journey is marked by encounters with more trees: one across the stream, one under which she sits, dead trees that she passes, and live oaks under which she walks. She is initially alarmed by a scarecrow, but once she realizes its harmlessness, she dances in the corn. She is like a bird.
However, when she is faced with a young hunter, her wrinkles go "into a fierce and different radiation," suggesting both extreme heat and light. Then, when she reaches the city and speaks to the attendant, "the wrinkles in her skin sh[ine] like a bright net." For a moment, Phoenix forgets why she came, but then "there came a flicker and then a flame of comprehension across her face." She even describes her grandson, a little boy whose throat was burned with lye, as "a little bird."
Can you think of some reason that the fire which seems to light Phoenix appears to burn so much brighter when she is around the white hunter, the white attendant, and the nurse in the town? Perhaps the process begins again, like the life of a phoenix does, whenever she goes to town: here, she burns, then she goes home, cares for her grandson, waits until the next time he needs his "soothing medicine," and then she starts out again. He depends on her; only she can help him, and so she does despite the miles and their dangers. It is as though she is renewed each time she completes her flight to the town. Her ability to continue to make this trip in her advanced years seems magical, and she does it out of love.
A good thesis could focus on all the symbolism associated with Phoenix's name and the nearly magical process she repeats again and again, just like the bird whose name she shares.