Symbolism in Eudora Welty’s Short Stories The Key and A Worn Path

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

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 phoenix is a bird with long span of life time. This phoenix is often used as a symbol for regeneration or reborn. The phoenix is a bright red and golden colour bird. While nearing the end of its life it travels to Heliopholis, 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.

There are many such symbolism used in literature. One can take the works of Eudora Welty as an example to 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 key and exhibit 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.

A Worn Path

Phoenix Jackson is walking to Natchez, missippi, 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 cold day in the early morning. Alone in the way she encounters various obstacles, a thorny bushes, deep woods a cheek, a barbed wire fence, a dog, as well as a white hunter though he helped her, calls her “you coloured people”.

Finally she reaches her destination to get medicine for her grandson. In mythology the bird phoenix lives for centuries before burning into ashes. Many countries believe in mythological stories about phoenix bird. Great people can be compared to phoenix because of their tireless dedication, confident and hardwork. In endora Welty’s short story ‘wornpath’ she named her character ‘Phoenix Jackson’. Phoenix Jackson, as a character is the epitome of what the phoenix symbolizes, hope security and a promise for the future.

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 to Heliopolis. Numerous references are made to phoenix, age, she describe herself as the oldest person she knows

In Mythology the phoenix bird is also known as a protector, here in Welty’s phoenix is known for her unconditional love for her grandson. 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 dealt with her entire life. Yet she made it through them all un-harmed and her spirit still intact.

The Key

Pulitzer Prize-Winner Eudora Welty’s short story ‘The Key’ is taken for 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, has three characters, Albert Morgan, his wife Ellie Morgan and the unnamed red-haired youngman. It is about the key and how each individuals responds to it particularly albert takes it as is possession and overwhelmed with enjoyment and satisfaction. Keys are important object in our daily lives, though never give them a second thought. They opened 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 unlock the lost happiness of the protagonist. Almost treats the key like his second life and his happiness is affected to his wife also. It is a custom to visit the Niagara falls on a Wedding trip, to start a happy life. In a railway station passenger are waiting along with this deaf and dumb couple. Every one are 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 Morgan was indeed picking up the key. This makes him ownwhelmed with happiness, he sees it as a symbol of ‘happiness’, the key he sees to unlock the cost happiness.

With a feel of electrification he secretly hides the key in his pocket. A small object key are symbols of opening and closing. Locks and keys affect our lives in various ways. Endora Welty beautifully employs how a small object can sometimes makes a great change within the individual.


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