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Discuss the irony in Phoenix Jackson's encounter with the hunter in "The Worn Path" by...

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brookbrogan | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 10, 2013 at 2:00 AM via iOS

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Discuss the irony in Phoenix Jackson's encounter with the hunter in "The Worn Path" by Eudora Welty.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 10, 2013 at 2:53 AM (Answer #1)

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Phoenix Jackson's trip to town covers a lot of ground and many kinds of landscape.  However, Phoenix will not give up, and she travels the distance to get the much needed medicine for her grandson.  In "The Worn Path" by Eudora Welty, this elderly black woman exhibits an indomitable spirit. 

Phoenix does not know for sure how old she is.  She is showing signs of senility.  She talks to herself a good deal of the time.  She also is hallucinating some times.  But as long as she can walk, she will make this trek for her sick grandson.  

The medicine she needs is in Natchez.  Phoenix lives in the woods. Traveling through the bushes, thorns, up and down hills, across creeks, she continues her journey.  The path that she travels is worn because of the many times that she has gone to get the medicine. 

Finally, she falls into a ditch when a wild dog comes up to her. A young, white hunter finds her and helps her out of the ditch.  He is carrying a rifle and has already shot a bobwhite.  He tells her that she should not be out on this cold December morning.

The young hunter treats Phoenix as though she is a child.  He calls her Granny. He also tries to show off by  attempting to shoot the wild dog.  He does tell her that if he had a dime he would give it to her.  

'I bound to go to town, mister,' said Phoenix.  'The Time come around.'

He gave another laugh. 'I know you old colored people! Wouldn't miss going to town to see Santa Claus!'

This angered Phoenix.  The hunter did not understand the irony of his statement.  Phoenix was the Santa Claus.  She was going to get and deliver a life saving bottle of medicine to the most mportant person in her life.  

The hunter drops a nickel out of his pocket.  Manipulating him to go chase the wild dog, Phoenix picks up the nickel and puts it in her pocket. Phoenix registers a twinge of conscience, but the hunter talked down to her.  This makes Phoenix not feel so bad. 

Telling the hunter that she has to be on her way, Phoenix  makes it to town. When she goes into the doctor's office, Phoenix has to sit down because she is so fatigued.  The nurse fusses at her about wasting their time.  Finally, Phoenix remembers what she needs and tells the nurse.

One of the secretaries gives Phoenix another nickel.  This makes Phoenix so happy.  Now, she can buy her grandson a Christmas present.  

After leaving the doctor's office, Phoenix goes to the store and buys her grandson a "whirligig." She will hurry home as faster as her legs can take her. Waiting for her will be a hug and a smile. 

The difficulty the reader has is understanding that she has to return on the same worn path that she traveled coming to town.  With the medicine and present in her hand, may be her steps will be lighter. 

 

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