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In "A Worn Path," what does the reader learn about Phoenix through the ways that the...

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gamerchk19 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 6, 2012 at 3:31 PM via web

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In "A Worn Path," what does the reader learn about Phoenix through the ways that the author develops her character?

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted June 10, 2012 at 12:43 AM (Answer #1)

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In "A Worn Path," Phoenix is a strong character. Although she is elderly, she manages to make the long trip to town on foot:

The story opens on a chilly December morning. An elderly African-American woman named Phoenix Jackson is making her way, slowly but surely, through the woods, tapping an umbrella on the ground in front of her as she walks. Her shoes are untied.

Phoenix is determined to get to the doctor's office to get medicine for her grandson who swallowed lye. Phoenix needs to get to town for the medicine that will heal her grandson's throat. 

Beginning on her journey, Phoenix stumbles along the way. She talks to imaginary animals, insisting that they get away from her. She is old and senile. She imagines things that are not there.  

Phoenix travels uphill. She crosses a log that is stretched out over a stream. She has to sit down and rest from time to time. Her skirts get caught in thorns. A dog comes up to her and causes her to lose her balance. She falls in the ditch. A white hunter helps her out of the ditch. 

The white hunter antagonizes Phoenix:

He points the gun at her and asks if it scares her. After she tells him that it does not, he leaves her and she continues walking.

Phoenix is courageous. She is determined to make it to town. She is devoted to her grandson. Finally, Phoenix reaches the town of Natchez. She asks a white woman to tie her shoes. Phoenix makes her way up the stairs to the doctor's office. There she is observed as a charity case. Phoenix has one thing on her mind--her grandson's medicine. Also, she has collected two nickels, enough to buy her grandson a paper windmill. This story is one of endurance. The reader gains a great respect for the elderly African American grandmother who accomplishes her goal. Phoenix is stronger than most. 

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