How does Phoenix distract the hunter from the nickel in "A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Phoenix Jackson is the protagonist in Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path," and in this story she is on a journey. It is a strenuous walk, especially for a very old lady like Phoenix. She is not steady, but she manages because it is a familiar, well traveled path (note the title) and love for her grandson motivates her. 

Though she is an independent woman, Phoenix often needs help and is willing to take it when it is offered. When she topples into a ditch and cannot get up, she just waits patiently until someone comes along to help her. 

A hunter stops and gives her some assistance, though he is a bit disrespectful; in doing so, he drops a nickel and does not notice. But Phoenix does. He keeps on talking to her, but Phoenix is intent on capturing that coin.

She decides to distract him by starting a dogfight:

[S]he gave a little cry and clapped her hands and said, "Git on away from here, dog! Look! Look at that dog!" She laughed as if in admiration. "He ain't scared of nobody. He a big black dog." She whispered, "Sic him!"...

The noise and activity distract the hunter, just as she planned. In a slow, deliberate, smooth motion, Phoenix bends over until her chin is nearly on her knees. 

The yellow palm of her hand came out from the fold of her apron. Her fingers slid down and along the ground under the piece of money with the grace and care they would have in lifting an egg from under a setting hen. Then she slowly straightened up, she stood erect, and the nickel was in her apron pocket. 

Phoenix gets the nickel which the hunter will likely never miss, and she is satisfied; however, she does know what she has done is wrong, noting that God is watching her.

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