Isaacs viewed Phoenix's Christmas journey as a "religious pilgrimage" with an ironic end that suggests "greed, corruption, cynicism." Also emphasizing Christian themes in the work, Sara Treeman pointed to story's theme of self-sacrifice, noting that the worn path "is worn because this is the symbolic journey made by all who are capable of self-sacrifice, of whom Christ is the archetype." The presence of secular mythology in the text has also been the subject of discussion by such critics as Dan Donlan, who perceived the prominence of the Egyptian myth of the Phoenix in the structure and symbolism of the story.
As she walks, she struggles against intense fatigue and poor eyesight, as well as such obstacles as thorn bushes and barbed wire.
The combined effects of her old age, her poor vision, and her poetic view of the world heighten the lyricism and symbolism of the narrative.
She declares that he is not dead, receives the medicine for him, along with another nickel, with which she decides to buy him a Christmas present—a "little windmill." Major Themes Phoenix Jackson emerges in "A Worn Path" as a character who endures; she is the symbol of perseverance, stamina, and life in the face of hardship and death.
Commentators have noted that her sheer fortitude in making the long journey on foot and alone points to these qualities, as does the mythological significance of her name, Phoenix—an Egyptian bird symbolizing resurrection.