Before reading the below post, please read “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty
Phoenix faces many obstacles on her journey into town. She first meets a dark dog, who she defends herself from, but then falls into a ditch, and cannot get up out of. Eventually, a white man comes by and helps her. But, he does not treat her very kindly. Next after she emerges from the swamp, she walks through some cotton fields, almost getting lost. While crossing the agricultural farm lands, she happens upon a scarecrow, who she first mistakes for a dancing man. Next when she gets into town, she almost trips and seeks a woman out to tie her shoe laces. Eventually, when she makes it to her destination, the receptionist almost makes fun of her in a way. Phoenix finally making it all the way there, forgets for a moment why she had come in the first place. But, then remembers a moment later, that it was to obtain medicine for her grandson, who has a sore throat.
At first glance, I wasn’t sure how this short story could be a metaphor for racism until I looked closer. Phoenix is on a journey, she is determined and nothing will stop her from reaching her destination. First she is scared for her immediate safety from the creatures of the swamp. This could imply the less than safe housing conditions many blacks were forced to living in, because they were not considered equal under the law. Next, she is knocked down and cannot help herself up. This could be a metaphor for the laws that President Lincoln passed freeing the slaves from slavery. He helped them out of the ditch they were in, however it did not give them true freedom as equality did not come for another 100 years. Next Phoenix sees a scarecrow. I believe this could represent one or both of the well known civil rights activists, either Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X. Scarecrows are visible above the crops and are used to scare away birds that try to eat the crops. In the metaphor I am proposing, the civil rights leader is the scarecrow, protecting their people, but also making themselves vulnerable, and open to attack. The civil rights leaders both seemed to understand that the changes they wanted to be seen made, were not going to be for them, but for the next generation. Similar is the scarecrow, a symbol of protection for the crops, but not for themselves.