A Worn Path Questions and Answers
by Eudora Welty

A Worn Path book cover
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Show at least three moments when Phoenix might have abandoned her mission in "A Worn Path." Explain how the symbolism of the phoenix relates to the protagonist's determination and resilience.

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The short story "A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty tells of a journey that an old African American woman named Phoenix Jackson takes to obtain needed medicine for her grandson. On the way, she faces numerous obstacles that might have caused her to abandon her mission. However, she is determined due to the great need of her grandson for the soothing medicine that helps his throat not close up.

First of all, Phoenix encounters thorn bushes that catch her dress. She has to carefully pull the thorns free so that her dress will not tear. When she is free of them, she trembles all over from the effort.

Next, she encounters a log laid across a creek. "Now comes the trial," she says. She is so frightened of crossing the log that she closes her eyes while she is doing it. On the far side, she has to sit down and rest from the effort.

Phoenix's next obstacle is a barb wire fence. It is difficult for the old woman to creep and crawl past it.

She then has to go through a field of old corn. Since there is no path, she compares it to a maze. In the midst of the corn, she finds a scarecrow, and initially she thinks that it's a ghost. After she touches it and realizes what it is, she feels great relief.

Perhaps Phoenix's greatest obstacle is the white man she encounters. At first he helps her out of a ditch into which she has fallen, but then he points his gun at her and tells her to go home. She refuses, knowing that she has to go onward to get the desperately needed medicine.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a phoenix is "a legendary bird which according to one account lived 500 years, burned itself to ashes on a pyre, and rose alive from the ashes to live another period; also, a person or thing likened to the phoenix." The name of Phoenix fits the protagonist of this story because despite the obstacles she faces, causing her to sit down to rest or even fall down, she rises again and continues on her way, determined to accomplish her mission of getting the life-saving medicine for her grandson.

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