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Eudora Welty, in her character Phoenix Jackson, produces humankind’s equivalent of the phoenix firebird from asian custom. Although Phoenix Jackson can not claim the immortality manifested by taking in intense renewals (as does the mythological bird), she has a fiery spirit and is consumed by love for her grandchild. Ana4rzing the character of Phoenix is pleasurable since the characteristics of her “roundness” are mainly favorable, fixed qualities. She is solid, confident, smart, and undaunted with a clear sense of purpose which guides her fearlessly towards her goal.
One word can summarize Phoenix noble. Even in the one circumstance when the reader sees Phoenix being sly, her slyness is instantly forgivable. Her slyness is a small negative characteristic in contrast to her many favorable ones and is not a conflicting quality. It is, instead, reasonable because of the pureness of her motivation love.
Ihe similarities of the phoenix bird and Phoenix Jackson are readily apparent in the author’s physical description of Phoenix; “… her head connected in a red rag,” “… a golden color ran beneath,” and “… a yellow burning under the dark”( 457 ).
Further validating the parable between the woman and the bird is the cornme made by Phoenix at the spring, “Sweetgum makes the water sweet’ (459 ). (Sweet‑gum K allegedly, the firebird’s source of nutrition) Given that it is apparent that Ms. Welty has actually made these comparisons, it is notable that the phoenix, in addition to symbolizing immortality, is stated to be a great and fantastic bird, possessing qualities not unlike the eagle’s: nobility and powers of endurance.
Phoenix Jackson shares these very same qualities.
Phoenix Jackson is an old Negro female (456 ). Being black and female in Natchez, Nfississippi, whenever previous to 1963 was particularly treacherous. Given that Phoenix refers to the “Give up,” the reader understands that she lived throughout and after the Civil War. This fact confirms that society afforded her little respect. Certainly, the bulk ofwhite people would have considered her little more than an animal. However, an examination of Phoeribes interaction with other (undoubtedly white) characters in the story shows that her honorable character commands regard in spite of her age, race, and sex.
For example, when the hunter points his gun at her, Phoenix responds by standing firm and facing him straight on. The hunter’s respect is evident in this comment, ‘Well, Granny, you must be a hundred years old and scared of nothing’ (460). Furthermore, when the elegant lady on the street stoops to tie Phoerlik’s shoes, the reader sees Phoenik’s commanding, noble character at work. In fact, it would appear that out of a crowd of people, Phoenix actually chooses this one particular woman to lace up her shoes:
She paused quietly on the sidewalk where people were passing by. A lady came along in the crowd, carrying an armful of…presents; she gave off perfume like the red roses in hot summer, and Phoenix stopped her (460).
Tradition says the phoenix bird has an affinity for frankincense, aromatic gums, and spices. It is also worthwhile to note that the “nice lady,” as well as the hunter, initially responds to Phoenix In a negative, perhaps derogatory, way by calling her “Granny’ or “Grandma.” But in the final analysis, the lady is (at least momentarily) at Phoenix7s feet, and the hunter voices his admiration. Phoenix’s physical stature stands in sharp contrast to the enormity of her journey. Welty establishes in the first paragraph that Phoenix is very old and small. Me fact that her walking could be aided and sustained by a thin, small cane made from an umbrella provides the reader with a graphic Illustration of her diminutive size.
Her small size, of course, emphasizes, by contrast, Phoenixs giant‑sized determination and perseverance. Effects of old age, particularly poor eyesight, intensifies Phoenix’s dangerous trek. When the path runs up a hill, Phoenix says, “Seem like there is chains about my feet, time I get this far” (457). Poor vision is indicated throughout the story, for example, “Old eyes thought you was a pretty little green bush” (457). However, one uncanny incident occurs regarding PhoenbCs eyesight. She sees “…with her own eyes a flashing nickel fall out of the man’s pocket onto the ground” (459). This episode supports the parallel drawn between Phoenix and the firebird‑‑she exercises ‘bird‑like” vision. Perhaps she has long contemplated what she would do if she had a nickel or a dime.
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