What role does the setting play in "A Worn Path"?
The story is set in rural Mississippi. Phoenix Jackson is making the journey to Natchez to get medicine for her grandson. Note that although it is in Mississippi, a typically warm to hot climate, it is a December morning and the ground is frozen. This may be fortuitous in that it is not an extremely hot day. However, it may be more difficult for her to travel in colder weather since she is not used to it.
The "worn path" is worn because Phoenix has consistently made this journey. But it is still a difficult one because it is made through the forest. In the interim between this and the previous trip, the forest may have grown over the path in some spots, making it more difficult each time. Just as the mythical phoenix rises again and again from its ashes, Phoenix Jackson must make the journey again and again. In this repeating cycle, she must also wear the path down again where the forest has overgrown it.
The setting in this story is everything. Consider the title. Although it is a "worn" path, it still presents plenty of obstacles for the aging Phoenix. She must go up hills. Her dress gets caught on a bush. She must cross a log that acts as a bridge over a creek. She must get through a barbed wire fence, get out of a ditch, and negotiate a racist hunter. The setting is one extended obstacle course. It shows the lengths she must go through to get the medicine. Her destination is "shining" with bells ringing. The destination is a shining, glimmering goal. Compare this with the wooded, obstacle-filled path.