Eudora Welty Short Stories
Review Of Eudora Welty’s A Worn Path
In Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” Phoenix age, low class living, well-being, and fearfulness are told through the details of her skin, her cane, the condition of her shoes, clothes, her health, her faith and determination as she ventures on her path to get medicine for her grandson who swallowed lye. The story is well told with characteristics from colors, to symbols, to perceptions, to objects, to drastic events that are both illustrated and perceptive, leading us to certain additional historical things of the story.
The colors are used to emphasize the depth and broad aspects of the story to tell us a journey taken by a poor black woman. The Phoenix can symbolize rebirth, beating life challenges from the ashes of the past, and victory of life over death. The Phoenix is the symbol that I think played a big factor in A Worn Path. It’s clear that Phoenix is up in age from the descriptions of the wrinkles on her face to the dirty worn out shoes on her feet. Also, the story mentions that she walks with a cane.
The cane can be described as a weapon against hazardous situations and nuisances she knows she will encounter on her way. Phoenix body is perceived as not the strongest old body a black poor woman could have but rather a weak one but still strong enough to venture on the journey. Phoenix body and mind – begs that she stop her path. Her perseverance is clearly sought out in the simple fact that she doesn’t quit. No matter what obstacle Phoenix came up upon she never deviated from her from her path.
The ending of the story is very interesting as not only does the reader become aware of Phoenix’s journey to help her grandson. It is through awareness that the reader realizes that Welty may be further discovering the theme of love. No matter the struggles that she has had to overcome. Phoenix has been selfless with her only goal being to help her grandson and get him the medicine he needs.
In conclusion, we have the idea of struggle, sacrifice, determination, perseverance, selflessness and love in Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path”. Symbolism has great meaning and different themes that can relate in society today. The worn path is told in the story to show the trials and problems that can happen in everyday situations. Eudora made it clear that the story is all about looking past those fears and struggles and keep moving forward no matter how hard, scary or dangerous the situation is.
Story Segmentation in a Worn Path by Eudora Welty
All stories can be segmented into beginning middle and an end. A worn path by Eudora Welty follows this pattern. In the beginning we meet phoenix as she makes her lonely journey encountering various obstacles in the natural world such as a steep hill, thorns which snag on her clothes, a log laid across a creek and a maze. The mood of the story changes somewhat with the introduction of the white hunter who helps her out of the ditch but who also points his gun in her face. We can identify the interactions with the hunter as indicating the middle of the story. Then at the end of the story, phoenix makes it to the city of Natchez and picks up her medicine from the clinic.
Segmenting the story in this way allows us to see the shape of the whole story at a glance. One of the aspects of the story we may perceive in this way is if that phoenix’s journey seems to take place in three stages and in each stage of her journey different kinds of challenges. At first phoenix faces the challenges of negotiating her way through the natural world. Then the introduction of the hunter presents her with the challenge of negotiating a world of other people. Then in the city she finds herself facing the challenges of society. In this way we can observe the levels of obstacles that Welty represents in the story and we see how the physical obstacles in the beginning of the story develop into the more complex kinds of obstacles such as racism, social stigma, and poverty described at the end of the story. The structure in a worn path we never see phoenix at rest, we never see her at home, she is always constantly on the move. Her whole story can be seen as one extended middle without a beginning or an ending. She is forever traveling, forever suspended in the air. Reading the story in this way emphasizes the open-ended quality of the story. The end of the story is not the end for phoenix as she still has to make the whole journey again in reverse for the return trip.
This whole journey itself furthermore is only one of many such journeys that phoenix has made in the past and that she will continue to make in the future. When we consider this aspect of the story, we may think of it as a story about time itself. The manner in which we all live in the flux of an extended middle. Of course phoenix’s name alludes to the mythical bird that lives through cycles of destruction and rebirth. The very first sentence sets the story in December, the end of one year and the beginning of the next. In the morning when time turns night it’ll turn over in today. Phoenix herself is described as a grandfather clock because of the way she walks hobbling between one heavy step and one light step. In this context, phoenix herself seems to partake in the natural cycles of day and night. The phases of the moon and she seasons as if she herself is a force of nature bound to a relentless orbit.
Phoenix also comes across as a human being. We had a said that a flat character is one that lacks complex motivations and phoenix might be considered as a flat character because all she seems to want throughout the story is to get the medicine for her grandson, but as we read the story more closely, her psychology appears to be more complex. “She received the nickel and then fished the other nickel out of her pocket and laid it besides the new one. She stared at her palm closely with her head on one side” one of the clues that phoenix is not a stereotypical grandmother figure. It’s her crafty steps of a nickel from the hunter. when she sees the coin fall out of the hunters pocket she cleverly sets two dogs against each other to distract the hunter so that she can carefully scoop the nickel up into her own pocket without her being observed. We know that stealing is wrong and we know that phoenix is supposed to be the protagonist so the reader has to invent a way of reconciling this apparent contradiction. Is it okay for phoenix to steal from the hunter because he is a bigot and deserves to get taken advantage of? Or does phoenix’s extreme poverty provide an excuse for her behavior? Or are we to think of phoenix as combining as both noble and ignoble qualities? This would be another way of saying that we are supposed to think of her as human, as a round character. Indeed at the very end of the story she tales this nickel out again and holds it against another nickel that she received from the attendant at the clinic. The two nickels, the one that she stolen, and the one she received by comparatively honest means seems to represent two sides of her character recalling the description of phoenix in the first paragraph as balance between heaviness and lightness.
Another conflict that helps to make phoenix a round character is that while she persists in her commitment to obtaining the medicine for her grandson. At several points in the story she seems tempted to give up the story journey altogether and just sink down into restful death. At one point sitting down to rest she has a dream vision of a little boy who brings her a piece of cake which she is happy to accept. This spectral vision seems to represent a fantasy of giving in to the temptation to stop the journey. Even more noticeable when a black dog knocks her into a ditch she lies down in the springy weeds and unable to extract herself seems resigned to remaining in this shallow grave indefinitely. It is dumb luck that the hunter comes along and helps her out but the suggestion remains that phoenix is so old and so weary that the prospect of dying on her journey is not altogether unpleasant. Indeed, the frequency with which dream images intrude into phoenix’s reality suggests that she exists in a kind of borderland between consciousness and sleep between life and death providing another frame of reference for that balance between heaviness and lightness said Welty she described in her initial description of her protagonist.
The setting of the story the American Deep South at some point in the first half of the 20th century obviously plays in an important role in the narrative. The disrespect shown toward phoenix by the hunter and by the attendance at the clinic is clearly intended to be understood within the context of Jim Crow era racial tension. While we can think of phoenix Jackson as a kind of eternal timeless pilgrim on a path between life and death. She is also a particular individual with a particular relationship to American history. We learned at the end of the story that phoenix never went to school because she was too old that “the surrender” meaning that when the south surrendered at the end of the civil war and the freed slaves were offered the opportunity to get an education. Phoenix was already beyond school-age. this revelation that phoenix spent the first two decades or so of her life as a slave has a chilling residence to her statement in paragraph five “seems like there us chains about my feet, time I get this far” literally phoenix is having a hard time getting up the hill and the difficulty of moving forward recalls the weight of leg irons but the discovery that phoenix was born a slave makes this passage more than a figurative speech, it connects her struggles on this journey to the struggles she has undergone her whole life as a victim of slavery. The path takes on another meaning at the difficult path of phoenix’s life.
The fact of the purpose of this journey is to obtain medicine for her grandson adds another dimension to the symbol of phoenix’s path of life. The ultimate goal of the journey of life is to nurture the next generation. The grandson suffers from the effects having swallowed lye a corrosive alkaline substance that can produce serious chemical burns. The medicine phoenix obtains may help the grandson throat to heal. It may help him recover his voice. Of course finding one’s voice is a potent metaphor for achieving a sense of empowerment and social justice. When we consider the thrilling oratory of this generation of African-American civil rights activists, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who would come to prominence in the 1950’s and 60’s we may perhaps conclude that Phoenix’s journey was not in vain she did in fact do her part to ensure that the next generation of African American’s would have a voice.
Symbolism in Eudora welty’s short stories
The term symbolism is nothing but a literary element used in literature. It helps the readers to understand a literary work. Symbolism is everywhere. Symbolism exists whenever something is meant to represent other meaning. In Greek mythology, the Phoenix is a bird with a long span of a lifetime. This Phoenix is often used as a symbol for regeneration or reborn. The Phoenix is a bright red and golden color bird. While nearing the end of its life it travels to Heliopolis, the city of the sun, to die and reborn from ashes. This is just one instance. Phoenix in literature is often used as a symbol, One can take the Southern Writer Eudora Welty’s works as an example of study symbolism. Eudora Welty uses many themes throughout her literary work to illustrate racism, responsibility, initiation, belonging and coming of age etc. Welty is often influenced by Greek mythology and beliefs. She also uses simple symbols like a key and exhibits it strongly as a symbol of happiness.
Therefore, the major aim of the paper is to explore the mythological symbols and other elements in Eudora Welty’s short stories. Phoenix Jackson is walking to Natchez, Mississippi, in order to obtain medicine for her grandson. Despite her advanced age, she undertakes this increasingly difficult journey out of unconditional love. Phoenix the African American Woman starts her difficult journey in a bright frozen day early morning in the month of December. Phoenix Jackson coming along a path through pine woods. She was old small, her head tied in a ‘red rag’, she wore a long dark colored striped dress and a bleached sugar sack as an apron, carrying a thin, small cane made from an umbrella. She looked straight ahead. Wrinkles on her face promise us her age. She went on up and down the hills She boldly warns “Out of my way, all you foxes, owls, beetles, jack rabbits and wild animals… Keep out from under these feet, little bob-whites… Keep the big wild hogs out of my path. Don’t let any of those come running my direction. I got a long way.”. She undertakes this difficult journey for her sick grandson. Finally, with never dying aim and high spirit, she reaches her destination to get medicine for her grandson. Lets us look over the hardships of this mighty old woman’s.In this difficult journey, her first task was a thorn caught her dress, trembling all over, she freed herself.Again she sees the log which was laid across the stream. “Now comes the trail,” said Phoenix. With endurance she put her right foot out, closing her eyes she mounted on the log. Lifting her skirt, balancing her cane, like a festival figure in some parade she began to march across. Our heart flutters and makes astonish when she bravely overcome. This time she had to go through the barbed-wire fence, she crawled like a baby. She went on into the cornfield. There was something tall and black moving before her. First, she taught it was a man. Again mistakenly taught a ghost but she never scared, instead she reached out her hand and touched it. Then she realized it is a scarecrow. “You scarecrow”, “I ought to be shut up for good,” she said with laughter. With new obstacles, a black dog with a lolling tongue came before her. With all the spirit she tried to hit the dog with her cane. However a young white man, a hunter helped her. Though Phoenix received cordial words from him, here she faces racism. “I know you old colored people wouldn’t miss going to town to see Santa Claus”.p 246. After sometime he came back and playfully lifted his gun and pointed it at Phoenix. She stood straight and faced him.
Similar to Phoenix bird Welty portrait this character as never-give-up attitude and endurance to overcome the obstacles. In mythology, the bird phoenix lives for centuries before burning into ashes. Many countries believe in mythological stories about phoenix bird. Great people are compared to Phoenix because of their tireless dedication, confident and hard work. Even common people are enchanted with this mighty bird’s story.
In Eudora Welty’s short story ‘worn path’ she named her character ‘Phoenix Jackson’. Phoenix Jackson, as a character is an epitome of what the phoenix symbolizes, hope security and a promise for the future. Phoenix Bird has a different name in different countries they believe in the different history of Phoenix bird, however, the conclusion of this mighty bird is ‘immortal’. Like Phoenix bird’s enchanted strength, Welty’s Phoenix moving towards her destination. She kept moving strongly. Phoenix the woman has many similarities to Phoenix the bird. Additionally, she is wearing a ‘red rag’ on her head. This clearly symbolizes the color of the Phoenix. Phoenix bird undertakes a journey to ‘Heliopolis’. Similarly, Welty’s Phoenix advanced age suggests that she is on her own journey.
Repeated references are made to Phoenix, age, she describes herself as the oldest person she knows. She says “My senses are gone. I too old. I the oldest people I ever know”. Any kind of injury suffered out in the open and alone like she was in the middle of the winter could have resulted in death. Unfair obstacles that Phoenix must have confronted in her entire life. Yet she made it through them all unharmed and her spirit still intact. The Key: Pulitzer Prize-Winner Eudora Welty’s short story ‘The Key’ is taken for the symbol. Like many of Welty’s stories ‘the key’ set among people from the poor, rural south and explores the depth and limitations of human communication. This story is set in 1930’s train station, Albert Morgan, his wife Ellie Morgan and the other passengers are waiting there. It is about the key and how each individual responds to it particularly Albert takes it as his possession and overwhelmed with enjoyment and satisfaction. Keys are an important object in our daily lives, though never give them a second thought. They open doors and beyond the doors are things that provide us with comfort and happiness. Welty successfully explores how a small object can give a deep enjoyment and can unlock the lost happiness of an individual.
Almost treats the key like his second life and his happiness is infected with his wife also. Keys are commonly associated to unlock any locked objects. Here we can find this lifeless small object add a new life to the protagonist by triggering and lost happiness and delight. It is a custom to visit the Niagara falls on a Wedding trip, to start a happy life. In a railway station, the passenger is waiting along with this deaf and dumb couple. Everyone is waiting with patience. A red-haired young men standing in the corner of the room playfully tossing a key up and down in the air. Then in a moment, he drops the key on the floor. Everyone, except Albert and his wife, looked up for a moment. On the floor, the key had made a fierce metallic sound.
Albert picks it up quite slowly with wonder written all over his face and hands as if it had fallen from the sky. His fingers clumsy and blurring while touching it. In an excitement, with overflowing of an happiness he says. “It is a symbol of something-something that we deserve, and that is happiness. We will find happiness in Niagara Falls”. This makes him own whelmed with happiness, he sees it as a symbol of ‘happiness’, the key he sees to unlock the cost of happiness. With a feel of electrification, he secretly hides the key in his pocket. A small object key is symbols of opening and closing.
Locks and keys affect our lives in various ways. Endora Welty beautifully employs how a small object can sometimes make a great change within the individual. The short story “Worn path” ends with of Phoenix Jackson’s destination, where she confronts the physical and mental hardships of her age. She undertakes this challenging Journey for her little grandson. Endora Welty magnificently portraits this mighty Phoenix character similar to the immortal bird Phoenix. Finally, Welty proves her skills by adopting a mythological symbol and a common symbol.
In the story “The Key” the Protagonist was enchanted with happiness and treats the key as his beloved possession. His enjoyment infects his wife Ellie too. Perhaps he had even decided that it was a symbol not only for happiness with Ellie but of something else-something which he could have alone, for only himself, in peace, something strange and unlooked for which would come to him.
Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings: Personal Experiences and Influence of Literature on Author’s Life
In Eudora Wetly’s One Writer’s Beginnings, Wetly writes about her life experiences and the way that books and literature have changed her. She writes of her story from her perspective and through personal experiences and her relationships with certain characters that she has communicated with. Wetly writes of her experiences with literary and rhetorical devices to try to prove her point and thoughts.
In the first paragraph of the excerpt, Wetly talks about the librarian in her local library. She uses parallel structure in describing her physical form. She uses diction that help the reader to visualize the way that Mrs. Calloway, the librarian, looked. “…she sat with her back to the books, and facing the stairs, her dragon eye on the front door,” uses metaphors to describe the way that others looked at her. Wetly describes Mrs. Calloway in a way that one would describe a monster and also explained why others were so scared of her. She ends the paragraph by describing the environment in the library and how pitch silent it was because of the way that Mrs. Calloway enforced it.
The second paragraph begins with the descriptions of what Mrs. Calloway would do if one approached her. Wetly emphasized on the strict conservatism of Mrs. Calloway and the way that she implied rules. She starts off in paragraph 3 and line 21 describing that one person who was not scared of Mrs. Calloway was her mother. The excerpt takes a turn in tone with the dialogue that becomes present that is quoted by the author’s mother. Wetly’s mother told the librarian that Eudora had the permission to read from almost every book except for books by a certain author or else she would be harmed. She used the metaphor by describing that Wetly would fall off a piano stool. She speaks of new words that she has learned when she was a kid with a tone of amazement and a bit of sass in the tone that she used to contradict with what her mother told her in line 35 when she says “I never hear it yet without the image that comes with it of falling straight off the piano stool.”
Wetly starts off the third paragraph by mentioning the rules that Mrs. Calloway made and speaks of her in a disapproving tone. She then uses parallelism to describe that only two books could be checked out at once with the book check out rule. She specifically gives titles to the books that she read and also uses italics to emphasize on how much reading meant to her and why she liked to read so much. She uses diction and imagery as well as personification to explain her experiences with reading. She ends the excerpt by giving an anecdote that involved her mother in the kitchen.
The end of the excerpt ends with a mentioning of an anecdote that happened later on in her life and quoting from a book that her mother was reading and how it correlated to her life at the time in real life. This shows a parallelism from her past and her present as well as a correlation between the past and the present.
Summary And Analysis Of Eudora Welty’s Story “A Worn Path”
The story “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty tells the account of Phoenix Jackson, to a great degree matured African American lady who lived in the Mississippi. Phoenix Jackson was described as a raggedy old woman. The scene began with Ms. Jackson taking her long journey into town and she was wearing her typical wardrobe, an apron made of sugar sacks, a red bandanna, the stick of an umbrella as her cane, and her shoe strings untied. With the description given from the first couple paragraphs readers perception of this African American lady is old, poor, or lost. The author does not disclose where the Phoenix is going exactly because she all she says is “I got a long way”. Phoenix lives in a calm provincial territory with her unrivaled grandson, whom she nurtures. Two years prior her grandson gulped lye and his throat presently can’t seem to mend. This torment sends dear old Phoenix out to the nation into town to see the specialist to ask about getting some all the more mitigating pharmaceutical to encourage the recuperating procedure.
Amid this specific adventure, she experiences many hindrances, genuine hardships, allurements, falsehoods, hostility and prejudice. Through every one of these difficulties, Phoenix still needed to proceed down this well used way perceiving the duty to tend to her grandson and defeat any hindrances to ensure her heritage lives on through him. Amid these years, Phoenix confronted the reality of living in neediness. As per Welty, she was in all probability conceived in neediness and lived in this hardship every last bit of her life, The red clothes she wore, old blanched cover, and the long dark striped dress that contacted her toes demonstrated an essentialness. Of all the cunning stories composed by Eudora Welty over the past 50 years, it is maybe a worn path that is most charming as far as its capacity to oppose basic clarification. the entire story is suggestive of a religious journey while the conclusion infers that the arrival trek will resemble the voyage of the magi with Phoenix following a star to convey a blessing to the youngster. Indeed the story is in some sense to utilize Isaac’s assertion suggestive of a religious mission. The story starts prominently on a cool December morning and similarly as fast we are made mindful that there is an old dark lady going along a way through the pinewoods.
We watch her as she arranges a progression of obstructions in that wild on her approach to Natchez Mississippi probably to get some drug for her grandson who as per the medical attendants count close to the stories end had gulped a specific measure of lye a few years sooner. explaining further on the scriptural examination of Isaacs. In landing at his decision he legitimately draws on the Egyptian legend of the Phoenix. One would be neglectful not to do as such in light of the heroes first name however though Bartel is by one means or another ready to see the Phoenix as characteristic of Phoenix Jackson’s extreme destruction it is more suitable to recall the phoenix legend has its source in a zone of the world known as the support of development and furthermore most proper to consider that Welty may expect for us to join the legend with her story to uncover a procedure that goes ahead into vastness. The encyclopedia Britannica depicts the Phoenix as a marvelous winged animal or bird associated with the love of the sun particularly in old Egypt and in established vestige. It was known to Hesiod and depictions of its appearance and conduct happen in antiquated writing sporadically with varieties in detail from Herodotus record of Egypt ahead. The phoenix is said to be as expansive as a hawk with splendid red and gold plumage and a musical cry. Just a single phoenix exists whenever. It is enduring; no old specialist gives it a life expectancy of under 500 years; some say it lives for a long time an Egyptian Sothic period an extraordinary gauge is 97. As its end approaches the phoenix molds a home of fragrant limbs and flavors set it ablaze and is devoured in the flares. From this fire supernaturally springs another phoenix.
In conclusion the phoenix is a legendary winged creature that reuses its own particular life. when it sees its approaching demise the phoenix touches off itself into a wonderful fire. in time it reemerges from its own particular fiery debris reawakened restored and especially alive interesting animals phoenixes. They can convey colossally overwhelming burdens their tears have mending forces and they make very unwavering pets. Phoenix tears have huge recuperating powers. It is the main known solution for basilisk venom, this older woman was a reincarnation of a phoenix. Nothing could stop the phoenix from getting the medicine for her grandson and just to show how brave and fearless she just is the Phoenix stops at a store near the doctor’s office to pick up a windmill toy for her grandson just before she head on her way back to her grandson.
A Comparison of Materialism, Communication, and Connection in Death of a Traveling Salesman and Neighbor Rosicky
Joint critiques of modern materialism and the resulting void in the life of the everyday man, Willa Cather’s Neighbor Rosicky and Eudora Welty’s Death of a Traveling Salesman illuminate the modernist dilemma of isolation through the characters of Rosicky and and R.J. Bowman, exploring themes such as communication, familial bond, simplicity in life. While both stories ultimately agree that materialism is a direct source of disconnect, leading to isolation and alienation, only Death of a Traveling Salesman negotiates the consequences of materialism and the absence of social, particularly familial, bond as a result of inaction and the inability to communicate. Neighbor Rosicky, in contrast, explores the antithesis: a life lived without regard to material goods, in which happiness is achieved through family life despite poverty. It embodies themes of action and communication as tools to happiness. Harsh and unforgiving descriptions of city life effectively position the city as a metaphor for materialism, or the chief source of emptiness in modern life. Cather and Welty’s stories have a nearly parabal-like quality to them, reading almost as guides on how to live a happy, fulfilled life.
The opening line of Death of a Traveling Salesman reveals Bowman to be essentially homeless: “R.J. Bowman, who for fourteen years had traveled for a shoe company though Mississippi, drove his Ford along a rutten dirt path,” (Welty, 1480.) For fourteen years, he lived out of hotels that were “stuffy in summer and drafty in winter,” (Welty, 1480) accompanied only by an array of nameless, meaningless women that now only remind him of “the worn loneliness that the furniture of that room,” (Welty, 1480.) The image of a worn, lonely room is a succinct metaphor for the quality of Bowman’s life and the isolation he feels in it, and this image is later revisited by Bowman as he observes the woman “waiting silently by the cold hearth, of the man’s stubborn journey… how they finally brought out their food and drink and filled the room proudly with all they had to show,” (Welty, 1487.) The jealousy that Bowman feels is overt. The room embodies the life these people have created, connection they have forged together “that he could not see,” initially (Welty, 1485.) That the women can say with quiet pride “He makes it,” (Welty, 1487) referring to drink is reminiscent of the quiet pride of Rosicky and his family.
That Bowman feels “hopefully secure,” (Welty, 1482) when he enters the couple’s house speaks to the natural human desire for connection. However, we see that Bowman is unable to communicate meaningfully despite this years as a salesman, a career notorious for small-talk. He is only able to muster, “I have a line of women’s low-priced shoes,” (Welty, 1483) and later “Do you two live here alone?” (Welty, 1483) which he himself admits that he doesn’t care to know. He is unable to explain his situation to Sonny. This sense of alienation from the very people who are helping him is amplified when Bowman realizes that his heart “should be full…should be holding love like other hearts,” (Welty, 1484.) The shame that he feels for having nearly communicated this to the woman brings the theme of disconnection back to the forefront; he knows what he wants to do, what he should have done all along, but this inability to communicate is revealed to be lifelong, a flaw that always “just escaped him,” (Welty, 1484.)
Much of Rosicky’s success, in contrast, stems from not only his ability to communicate effectively, but the manner in which he uses communication to help the people he loves. When his sons protest that they don’t want to give up the car to Rudolph and Polly, Rosicky clearly articulates his rational, “I don’t want no trouble to start in Rudolph’s family… An American girl don’t git used to our ways all at once,” (Cather, 971.) Rosicky demonstrates logic and empathy for Polly in his justification to the boys, and his kindness his later rewarded when Polly is able to save him after he falls ill. The bond between the two is strengthened, and in a triumphant moment, city-girl-cum-country-wife Polly says, “Lean on me, Father!” (Welty, 980) after Rosicky had specifically noted that she never referred to him as such.
He later recounts the story of his troubles in London, which he recalls as “the only part of his youth he didn’t like to remember,” (Cather, 969) in order to warn his sons of the inherent hardships of city living. Nothing in life matters more to Rosicky than that his sons understand the value of simple living, for “to be a landless man was to be… a slave… to have nothing, to be nothing,” (Cather, 973.) Rosicky rejects the city life and the utter emptiness of “stone and asphalt with nothing going on,” (Cather, 970.) This societal critique is reinforced by his declaration to the boys that that “don’t know what hard times is,” (Cather 974.) It is implied that the boys associate hard times with financial distress, but Rosicky denies that hard times can be had when one has a strong family. His happiness and purity of character is rooted in the connections that he holds, particularly with his wife, Mary, because he knows “they could bear what they had to bear… they would always pull through somehow,” (Cather, 978.)
The opening line of Neighbor Rosicky is similarly revealing of protagonistic character like that of Death of a Traveling Salesman. When told of his illness, “Rosicky protested,” (Cather, 962,) the narrator notes, immediately establishing Rosicky’s will to live. While he does not go out of his way to endanger himself, Rosicky refuses to be victimized by his illness, choosing rather to continue to live his life at an easy place, or to “Chust to take it easy like,” (Cather, 968.) Contrasted with Rosicky, Bowman resents his illness, feeling “angry and helpless” at being feverish, a metaphor for a materialistic society’s fixation on productivity and the helplessness an individual feels when they are unable to effectively produce. Bowman, who has dedicated the last fourteen years of his life to work over family, “distrust[s] illness,” (Welty, 1480) because it is a direct threat to his productivity. He even deludedly attempts to remove its power by giving “the nurse a really expensive bracelet,” (Welty, 1480.) This fear of inproductivity extends to “guilty in…stillness and silence,” (Welty 1485,) tying Bowman’s sickness to capitalistic guilt and also the inability to communicate.
Although Rosicky is not pleased with his declining health, he views it as in inevitable part of life. During “the first snow of the season,” a metaphor for the natural progression into old age, Rosicky passes by his future graveyard, and remarks that it’s “a nice graveyard… sort of homelike… not mournful… it was so near home,” (Cather 967.) He does not wish to die, but Rosicky feels prepared for death, and the graveyard symbolizes a life well lived. Bowman, despite his illness, does not contemplate his own mortality until the car crash. In this instance, “all his anger drifted away” (Welty, 1481) and he is left passively asking himself “Where am I? Why didn’t I do something?” (Welty, 1481.) Although the questions are meant in reference to his own stubborn refusal to “admit he was simply lost and turn around,” both the questions and the refusal to ask for help are understood to serve as metaphors for his inaction throughout life, which he can only clearly see when taunted by death.
Throughout Death of a Traveling Salesman, Bowman’s mysterious illness also creates an extended metaphor of inaction; he repeatedly refers back to this illness as an unfair, frustrating excuse for why he is unable to help himself. Rosicky’s life is full of action: he leaves Czechoslovakia for England, then for New York, and then the Omaha, constantly searching for a way to better his life and “try his fortune in another part of the world,” (Cather, 971.) Although Rosicky was admittedly “city-bred” (Cather, 968) he realized the emptiness of this life style and the “temporary illusion of freedom” they provided (Cather, 970) and reverted back to a life of simplicity.
After realizing that his life of inaction and adherence to materialism has left him with no meaningful connections, Bowman flees the couples house in attempt to “get back to where he had been before,” (Welty, 1488.) He wishes to return to the ignorance of the material society, one which claims to reward hard work over connection. The lamp which the woman had been cleaning when he arrived is symbolic of her life and the effort to maintain it. The money that Bowman leaves below the lamp is his shallow attempt to connect one last time with the couple in the only way he knows how: financially. When his illness returns and his heart gives out, Bowman attempts to cover “his heart… to keep anyone from hearing the noise it made,” (Welty, 1488.) Even in his last moments, he rejects communication. However, as a result of his avoidance of communication, no one is around to witness his death, thus rendering the action pointless. He dies alone, and there is no one left behind. The image of Rosicky’s beautiful grave returns after his death, and Dr. Ed contrasts it with “city cemeteries…cities of the forgotten,” (Cather, 982.) It is clear that due to his inability to communicate and his life dedicated to materialism, Bowman will reside in this city of the forgotten in his death.