Phoenix says she is an old woman without an education does she nevertheless seem to have any knowledge that the other characters lack

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Eurdora Welty's title provides a clue to the question raised about Phoenix's particular knowledge: Her "worn path" of life has provided her with an experience and acumen that is superior to the people and forces of nature that she encounters. For instance, when the hunter happens upon her and asks her why she is in the ditch, she simply jokes about being a June-bug waiting to be turned over.  Careful to tell him anything, Phoenix is vague about where she lives and for what purpose she is out, 

"I bound to go to town, mister...The time come around."

When the man mocks her with a generalization about "colored people," Phoenix remains stoic:  "The deep lines in her face went into a fierce and different radiation."  Instead of reacting, Phoenix distracts the man about the black dog; when he runs off the dog, Phoenix takes advantage of his absence and grabs a nickel that she has noticed fall from his pocket.  Then when he returns and cruelly points his gun at her, Phoenix, who knows that he wishes to terrify her, wisely refuses to show fear:  "She stood straight and faced him." Her aplomb in this situation denies him the effect he had desired; he shoulders the gun and lies to her, saying he would give her a dime if he had any money with him.  When he tells her to go home, Phoenix assumes a humble position, replying ," I bound to go on my way, mister."

At the clinic, Phoenix asks for the medicine that helps to relieve her grandson's pain.  Because it is Chritmas time, an attendant offers her a few pennies.  Stiffly, Phoenix replies that five pennies make a nickel, so the attendant gives her one.  With the other nickel that fell from the hunter's pocket, Phoenix can buy her grandson a little windmill, a symbol of her victory over the obstacles that she has encountered and her endurance against the subtle persecutions that she suffers from those who call her "Granny" and "Aunt Phoenix."


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