What can you infer about Phoenix from her words and actions in "A Worn Path"?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

By observing Phoenix’s words and actions, the reader can infer at least three things about the main character.  First, the reader can infer that Phoenix has made her trip many times before.  The first clue to this is the story’s title:  “A Worn Path.”  Further, however, are some of her comments along the way such as “seem like there is chains about my feet, time I get this far.”  Another example is when Phoenix says, “Nobody know who made this well, for it was here when I was born.”  When she is asked about why she comes to town, she replies, “The time come around.”

The reader can also infer that Phoenix knows the value of money, but is too proud to ask for charity.  Phoenix has a keen eye to spot the hunter’s nickel fall to the ground and wastes no time in stooping to pick it up.  When someone offers to give her some money, her reply is, “Five pennies is a nickel.”  This money, of which she had none when she began her journey, is used to buy a pinwheel for her grandson.  Phoenix wisely uses extraneous money to buy an extraneous item.  The irony here is that her entire trip is made to procure free medicine for her grandson.

Finally, the reader can infer that Phoenix has fallen victim to condescending attitudes before and has become brave as a result.  The hunter is the first character that has a condescending attitude towards Phoenix, calling her “Granny” and continually laughing at her as she lay in a ditch.  When he “laughed and lifted his gun and pointed it at Phoenix.  She stood straight and faced him.”  This is bravery at its finest.  Not only can we assume that she has met this kind of condescension before, but also we can infer that her years of experience have taught her how to react.  The nurse and the attendant at the doctor’s office have the same attitude toward Phoenix.  They demand answers and tell her that she “mustn’t take up our time this way.”  Her persistence provides the bravery here, and she leaves with the medicine for which she came.  One can even infer that Phoenix has been treated similarly by the same people in this same office before.  Again, her years of experience have taught her how to react in order to get the result she wants.