For example, the narrator states, that Phoenix wore “a dark striped dress reaching down to her shoe tops, and an equally long apron of bleached sugar sacks, with a full pocket: all neat and tidy, but every time she took a tepee she might have fallen over her shoelaces, which dragged from her unlaced shoes ” (475). The dark striped dress and long apron made of sugar sacks symbolizes poverty because of her hardships In life; this Is the type of clothing most Negro women slaves wore back in the slavery days. The darkness of her dress represents her state of depression.
The stripes on her dress symbolizes the prison bars showing she was held captive as a slave for some time. The unlaced dirty shoes also shows her poverty as it represents her needing a new pair of clean laced shoes to wear along her Journey. Although her attire showed her poverty she always Montague 2 kept herself neat and tidy. The narrator also states “Under the red rag her hair came down on her neck in the frailest of ringlets, still black, and with an odor like copper” (475). The red color rag wrapped around her head symbolically represents her powerful strength to succeed along the path.
The physical appearance of a phoenix bird, Is said to have bright red and gold feathers. The bright red of the phoenix is one of many symbolic features that can be compared to Phoenix’s ascription because of her red rag around her head. The copper smell of her hair brings more realism of her old age. Although she is old, she has extremely dark hair and has much life within her. Along the dangerous Journey Phoenix displayed bold and courageous qualities as she was very determined to get to her grandson’s destination. The narrator states, “Putting her right foot out, she mounted the log and shut her eyes. “Lifting her skirt, leveling her cane fiercely before her, like a festival figure in some parade, she began to march across” (475). Phoenix falls gets back up and keeps on towards the goal of getting her grandson’s medicine. Phoenix could be compared to the mythological bird that is said to have lived 500 or more years, who died in flames and rose from the ashes. The qualities of the bird are seen In Phoenix’s determination. Although overcome the obstacles presented before her. The phoenix bird can heal a person with Just a tear from its eyes, and make them temporarily immune to death. “sun so high! She cried, leaning back and looking, while the thick tears went over her eyes” (475). The Phoenix bird’s tears demonstrates her effort to make her grandson immune from death, as she was her grandson’s only hope. Montague 3 Once Phoenix made it to her destination at the doctor’s office, the attendant gave Phoenix a nickel. Phoenix was relieved after the doctor visit because she was given ten cents total at the end of the visit. Back in those slavery days slaves never had any money, so her excitement for money was related to freedom. In the story, money had the meaning of financial freedom and success.
This is exactly what Phoenix separately wanted to have for herself to have a better life for herself and overcome her poverty. Finally the story displays what a Negro woman went through or struggled with back in the earlier slavery years. Phoenix was a woman that had learned many survival skills as in comparison to the Phoenix bird. She was never intimidated by anyone showing she was a tough woman to deal with. Her poverty did not prevent her from pursuing what she wanted to accomplished. Phoenix had courage and pride which kept her from seeing what other’s thought of her.