2Symbolism in Literature Published by susansteppe, February 27, 2011 Symbolism in “The Road Not Taken”, “A Worn Path”, and “Used to Live Here Once”. When looking at the short story and poem it is impossible to see it all in a literal form. There is always some sort of symbolism that occurs within the body of the text, but what is symbolism. It can be defined differently by many people. Even when looking at a dictionary it does not typically give a thorough answer. It is because symbolism is created by the author. However, it can be contradicted or have a completely obscure meaning to the reader.
This is the exact reason why symbolism cannot be defined. However, it can be interpreted. Understanding the journey that characters take and their symbolic nature is definitely worth decoding. In fact, the symbolism of the journey is usually the basis behind the literary work itself. One of the well-known literary works with a symbolic journey is Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken. ” In the poem there is a man who has come to a crossroad in his life. One path is traveled on frequently while the other path is not. He has to make a decision as to what path he should take.
No matter what, he knows that he cannot turn back once he has made the choice, but it is implied. He chooses the path less traveled and, in turn, it happens to be the best choice he had ever made. Many have analyzed this poem and many have come up with different ideas of what it actually means. Some say it is about suicide, some say it is about life changes, while others insist it is about life changes. When is the interpretation wrong? The reader gets what they must out of the poem as they read it. It depends on what life situation they are going through at that time.
The author, Robert Frost, knew what he was writing about. Therefore, the interpretation of the poem actually merges itself with the reader. Regardless, there is a journey that occurs throughout this poem. To analyze the literary work there needs to be a beginning. Read more in Poetry « Does a Sonnet Always Have 14 Lines? Poetry Comparison Essay – “The Evacuee” and “Death of a Naturalist” »In the first two lines of Robert Frost’s poem he says: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both” (Clugston, R. W. , 2010; section 2. 2).
There is a certain symbolism in the yellow wood. It is not that the forest was filled with yellow trees. It was obviously at the beginning of fall. Fall is the season that everyone slows down from the summer. The anticipation of winter is coming and can cause a sort of depression in some people. It would explain why he wanted to travel both. The following line says: “And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth” (Clugston, R. W. , 2010; sec 2. 2). Here the reader comes to understand that the man took his time looking down the path.
This could symbolize patience or a lack of movement, which would again go along with the idea that the man was depressed. Another aspect of the idea of depression, one path had leaves on it while the other was grassy. When someone is depressed they do not want to go down a dreary path. Instead, they would want to go down the grassy path that looked less traveled. Perhaps then something would change in their life. The actual symbolism of the paths themselves goes right along with that idea. However, the man was obviously optimistic because he did think about saving the one path for another day.
He does contradict himself when he doubts that he will come back. The symbolism occurs with his doubts. He knows that once he goes down one path that he will not be able to come back at all. When the reader thinks about it there is an ordinary situation with this scenario because the entire poem is about a man who stops when he comes to a fork in the road. Nevertheless, the road actually is a symbol for life. That is where the imaginative language is used, and it is used in order to create emotion. Should the man go down the path with the leaves covering it? What are the leaves representing?
The leaves were not scattered everywhere, so the road was less traveled upon. In fact, the leaves represent the difficult trials that were to follow. Basically, it is easier to walk a path that has nothing in the way then one that does not. Therefore, the images that are particularly effective are the two paths and the leaves. These symbols change the tone of the poem to confusion, but it actually provokes deep thought when the traveler states that he took the one less traveled by. In the short story “A Worn Path” symbolism of the journey also occurs. Yet, it is much different from Frost’s “A Path Not Taken. In Frost’s poem he has the choice of two different paths, but in “A Worn Path” the old woman, Phoenix Jackson, takes the same path over and over again. The path that Phoenix takes is a path that she has taken many times before in order to get medicine for her grandson. The symbol of the path is life’s long journey. After all, she is an old woman who has dealt with many things in her life. The symbolism of the pendulum in a grandfather clock also pertains to her age. She is an old woman, a poor one at that, who walks with a cane made from an old umbrella. She was very old and small and she walked slowly in the dark pine shadows, moving a little from side to side in her steps, with the balanced heaviness and lightness of a pendulum in a grand-father clock” (Clugston, R. W. , 2010 sec 6. 3). When Phoenix hears the noises in the thicket she is determined to make sure they stay away. This represents her strength of mind. Her willpower is a large part of the symbolism within the story because of the long journey she has to take. She is not on a mission to help herself. Instead, she is on a mission to help a part of her family.
Therefore, it is a purpose driven trip, so when the animals make noise in the distance she does everything possible to make sure she scares them off. It is a life-saving task in which she cannot fail. It is then that Phoenix has to climb a hill that is almost too difficult for her. The hill actually symbolizes the struggle of life. When everyone is a child it is easy to do anything. Hills are no big deal to climb, bicycles are easy to ride, and running everywhere is as simple as eating. However, as a person ages it is more difficult to do things. That is where the hill comes in to play.
She needs to climb the hill in order to conquer aging. There was no way that she could give up easily because of the journey she was taking. Also on the hill is a bush that catches her dress. The bush signifies the obstacles in her life. She obviously lived a hard life. She had many wrinkles, her clothes spoke for themselves, and she had not been able to clean herself every day. The fact that she was poor epitomizes the fact that she had lived a hard life up until this point. Once she freed herself from the bush it characterized her willpower again.
Nothing was going to stop her from completing her task. Another important factor about the bush was that she yelled at it. She called in a pretty green bush. That symbolizes the fact that she did not recognize the many of the obstacles in her life until they actually came to pass. After she struggles with the bush she sees the sun. The sun signifies the importance of dealing with the struggles in her life. Basically, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. She was freed from that turmoil that happened in her life and she could go on. There was a new beginning, or she could start things anew.
Unfortunately, that was not the end of her struggle through life because there was the large log in the way. The log embodies the act of accomplishment. No one could stand in for her. She, Phoenix, had to overcome her own tussle. Once again, a fight for security is symbolized with the barbed wire fence. On her journey she sees a buzzard, which is a symbol of death. When thinking about a buzzard many imagine them circling around a carcass. It is their way of claiming their meal for the day. Nevertheless, this one was just sitting there. The fact that he was not moving could symbolize death waiting for her.
Yet, Phoenix was not ready for death. She may be getting old, but there was no room for death in her excursion. Shortly after she sees the buzzard she comes upon a scarecrow. Buzzards, crows, and other birds usually sit on the arms of a scarecrow. That exemplifies death as well, but instead of avoiding the scarecrow she dances in front of it. She was mocking death, or telling death in her own way that she would have no part of it. After all, she was on a mission to help her grandson. He had a throat condition, probably asthma, which prevented him from doing many things.
There was no way she was going to give up her exertion. When Phoenix finally reached her destination it was a symbol of accomplishment. When thinking about the entire path it indicates the journey throughout life. As a baby everything is taken care of. There are no worries within life because there is someone to lean on. That is the first part of the path. The second part of the path, the hill, is the beginning of hardships. Each tribulation got bigger and bigger the older Phoenix became until she came to a point in her life when her burdens were easier to overcome.
Yet, when she does get the medicine for her grandson she has to go through the entire trip over again. Again, it symbolizes more difficulties in life and the many obstacles that she had to deal with in her life. “A Worn Path” is the perfect depiction of how many people’s lives turn out. No one gets a free ride in life, which means everyone has to deal with their own miseries, troubles, and sufferings in order to become better people. Phoenix is a strong-natured, strong-willed, and head-strong woman because she dealt with her ordeals in life. It may have been difficult at times, but she became an accomplished woman in her own right.
Another short story that symbolizes life’s journey is “Used to Live Here Once. ” The first trek of her journey was the rocks in the stream. Each rock represents a significant part of the trials everyone has to deal with in life. For instance, the round unsteady rock symbolizes the rocky road people must endure throughout life. No one truly gets the easy way out of life because there is always something that makes the journey unstable. The safe stone represents childhood. When someone is a child they do not need to be dependent on themselves in order to get through their distresses in life.
A mother carries her newborn, feeds them, and cares for them. Basically, the newborn has no worries. Even as a child growing up there are really no burdens to deal with. There might be anxieties, but the child’s mother, or father, is there to catch them when they fall. They can look around as long as they want at their life and perhaps where they might be in the future. The rock, itself, is the parents. The next rock was no so safe because it was slippery and when the water rose it would be covered. This rock indicates the time of life when there are trials and tribulations to endure.
The first is, of course, becoming a teenager. There are worries, distresses, pains, and hardships to deal with. The rising of the water actually designates the rush of life after becoming an adult. A person is on their own with no one to catch them, but themselves. They need to have a watchful eye whenever difficulties arise, and sometimes those ordeals can be overbearing. There are even times when that person falls, but they always get up again. Reaching the other side of the stream designates or symbolizes the triumph over the tribulations in life. It is safe, so there is nothing to fear.
The ground is secure and it is easy sailing from there. The road that the woman travels on is much wider than it used to be. It says in the story, “The road was much wider than it used to be but the work had been done carelessly” (Clugston, R. W. , 2010, sec 7. 5). This can be interpreted a couple different ways. One way is that life is unpredictable. In other words, there is no telling what could happen next because no one knows their future. The second way of understanding the wider road is to signify change. When people become older and go through their struggles, or heir rocks, they become different people. Everything that a person endures allows them to grow into the person that they are. For instance, a child that has had a mellow life growing up suddenly decides to join the military when they become of age. They go to boot camp one person, but come back someone completely different. It is because they dealt with obstacles throughout boot camp and had to grow up into an adult. That is a forced measure of growing up, but the concept is the same. Each trouble or ordeal they go through makes them into a better person.
When the woman gets near the house she sees more changes. A house gone and one built a car, and items that were no longer there. Yet, she is so excited about coming back to place she grew up she does not really care. This, again, symbolizes the changes in life that occur. Once life has changed and the hardships are endured nothing is the same. Trials in life either become more difficult or easier to deal with. There is no telling but, nonetheless, the changes stay. Then the woman comes upon the two children playing in the yard. She attempts to say hello, but the children ignore her.
She thinks it is because she is colored. The woman gets closer to the children and she attempts to say hello again. However, they do not answer still. When she gets very close to the children one of them say it is cold, so they leave. This is when she realizes that she is no longer among the living. Therefore, the entire trip she took symbolizes the entire cycle of being born to the moment of death. In conclusion, the symbolisms between “The Path Not Taken,” “A Worn Path,” and “Used to Live Here Once” are quite similar. All three are about life’s challenges and the struggles throughout life.
There are always decisions that need to be made through life and there are always going to be obstacles that get in the way. It is getting through those tribulations that are the trick. Not only that, but it is crucial not to give up. The stories portray that indefinitely. In “The Path Not Taken” the man takes the road less traveled. Yes. He had to go through many troubles throughout his life, but in the end he chose the right path. In “A Worn Path” the old woman pretty much has to go through the same difficulties throughout her life, but her endurance presides over her. Therefore, she has made the right choice.
Last, but not least, in “Used to Live Here Once” the woman path symbolizes the entire trek through life from birth to death. These three literary works are definitely worth reading, but they are also there to teach about life itself. References Clugston, R. W. (2010) Journey into Literature. San Diego, CA. Bridge point Education. (http://content. ashford. edu/books/AUENG125. 10. 1/sec2. 2) (http://content. ashford. edu/books/AUENG125. 10. 1/sec6. 3) (http://content. ashford. edu/books/AUENG125. 10. 1/sec7. 5) Phillips, R. T. (March 1986) Diverging and Converging Paths: Horizontal and Vertical Movement in Robert Frost’s Mountain Interval.
Vol 58, Issue 1, pg. , 17 p. American Literature. Moberly, K. (Winter 2005/Spring 2006) Toward the North Star: Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” and the Slave Narrative Tradition. Vol. 59, Issue ? , p. 107-127, 21p. Mississippi Quarterly. Piwinski, D. J. (Winter 2008) Mistletoe in Eudora Welty’s ‘A Worn Path. ’ 16 (1): 40-42. ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes, and Reviews Flag It Spam Adult Content Plagiarism Insufficient Quality Wrong Category Select the Right Category about Writing Autos Books Business Computers Creative WritingDomesticGamingGeneralHealthInternetMoviesMusicNewsOff eatPetsPoetryRecipesReligionScienceShort Stories Society Sports Television Travel Women Selected for you by a sponsor: 10 Signs You May Be in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship (HeathCentral. com) What Happened to Marie Osmond’s Face? (Style Goes Strong) You might be interested in: A Summary and Review of The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox: A Guide for Thinking Executives – and Those Who Want to be One (Book stove) Childhood Phrases and Their Darker Meanings (Book stove) Tahrir Flame Flame (Trifter) The Stupid King (Trifter)
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