A Worn Path

A Worn Path Metaphors and Similes

Metaphor: The Path

The path that Phoenix must travel across is the central metaphor of the story and it has multiple representations. The path could be read as metaphor for her own life, which has been a struggle across the literal landscape. The path is also a metaphor for the figurative road from bondage to freedom that African Americans have taken with the hope that it will one day lead to equality. Fraught with peril, the worn path mirrors both the individual and collective sense of the metaphor.

Simile: "like the chirping of a solitary little bird"

The tapping of the cane that Phoenix must use to maintain equilibrium is here compared to a bird, thus linking to the symbolic allusion of the main character’s name. This link sets the stage for what will become the story’s most commonly recurring imagery, which relates to birds or flight. Notable here, of course is that it is the sound made by symbol of her physical impairment that is compared to a bird: this give the simile an ironic twist, for not only can this Phoenix not fly, but she needs assistance even to walk.

Simile: "He wear a little patch quilt and peep out, holding his mouth open like a little bird"

This is the description by Phoenix of her grandson whose sickness is what her sets her upon the "worn path" this particular day. It is the last direct reference to a bird that makes up the tapestry of imagery and it is appropriately sad. More importantly, however, is that this feeling of sadness the image engenders reveals a layer of intelligence, craftiness and talent for manipulation that deepens the complexity of her character and enhances both her likability and our admiration for her.

Simile: "Big dead trees, like black men with one arm,"

For anyone with even the slightest awareness of the Jim Crow era in which the story takes places, the connections at play in this comparison are difficult not to make. This simile does not directly make the comparison, but when the words “dead” and “tree” and “black men” all appear so closely together, images of lynching are almost impossible to ignore.