She crawls through the barbed-wire fence like(a) a baby(b) a soldier(c) a fox

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cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to the story, "...she...had to go through a barbed-wire fence. There she had to creep and crawl, spreading her knees and stretching her fingers like a baby trying to blimb the steps" (paragraph 16). What would be the significance of Welty's comparing this old woman to a baby?

Phoenix's age is emphasized from the beginning of the story when she is described as having eyes "blue with age" and skin with a pattern of "numberless branching wrinkles" (paragraph 2). The young white hunter declares to her, "...you must be a hundred years old, and scared of nothing" (paragraph 59). Yet despite her age, Phoenix is faithfully making the trek to Jackson for the "soothing medicine" for her little grandson. Perhaps she is compared to a baby in this simile to stress her age and to show how difficult it is for her to negotiate going under the barbed-wire fence. Nevertheless, she does not falter. Just as "her feet knew to stop" when she arrived at the doctor's office (paragraph 69), she instinctively manages to get past the fence just as a baby instinctively learns how to climb the steps--carefully. And after all, she's making this difficult journey for her "little bird," her grandson, in a way, her baby.

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A Worn Path

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