Nobody really knows when death will come knocking at his or her door. In her short story, "A Worn Path," Eudora Welty uses many different symbols that convey an underlying meaning that death is lurking around every corner and around every bend in the road. Some of these symbols include the title itself, "A Worn Path," the rustling in the bushes, Phoenix Jackson's dress catching in the bush, and the scarecrow and the black dog. All of these symbols represent death in one way or another.
The first symbol is the title of the story and how it brings Phoenix Jackson to her journey of "A Worn Path." This path is familiar to Phoenix, for she has traveled down it her entire life. As Phoenix starts her long journey through the deep ominous woods, she knows anything could happen if she is not careful. With her ears and senses alert, she makes slow but steady steps into the woods. Phoenix hears rustling in the bushes as she makes her way along the path. Phoenix does not see anything, but she thinks the wild animals might try to get her, so she says "Out of my way all you foxes, owls, beetles, jack rabbits, coons and wild animals!" (87). The path Phoenix takes is the path of her life. She knows death lurks behind every shadow and can take on any form or shape. The rustling in the bushes represents the evil that could cross her path and interrupt her way of life.
People can sense when their time of existence is near the end. They will take painstaking care to look presentable when entering Heaven. Phoenix's "long dark striped dress" gets caught on a bush, and to her this is not acceptable. She says, "Thorns, you doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass" (87). Phoenix finally frees herself from the bush. Death plays many games, and this is one more that Phoenix has endured and overcome. At times people feel like the devil has a hold on them. The thorns are like the fingers of the souls that live in the underground.