What is the conflict in "A Worn Path"?
In "A Worn Path," Phoenix Jackson is on a journey to obtain much-needed medicine for her grandson. The central conflict she faces is with her society, yet she also faces conflict with nature as she travels.
Although she is an old woman, Phoenix must endure a long and physically demanding journey in order to reach town. Her society offers no real means of assistance for this determined grandmother. Although she is a fairly regular client at the medical facility, no offer is willing...
to take the medicine to her. Instead, the doctor has instructed that "as long as [she comes] to get it," she is allowed to have it. The story was published in the early 1940s, which means that Phoenix doesn't have access to a personal automobile or even public transportation. Additionally, no effort is made to educate the staff about this poor woman's regular trips to the office; hence, when she first arrives, she is met by a woman who insults and yells at her. Along the path, Phoenix must also face the hunter, who represents the racist attitudes which are prevalent in her society. He attempts to intimidate her with a gun and then instructs her to head back home so that "nothing will happen to [her]." Nevertheless, Phoenix keeps moving in the direction of the medical clinic.
Nature also presents a conflict along her journey. Along Phoenix's path, she yells out for the wild animals to stay out of her way. She climbs hills and must balance across a log in order to cross a creek. The physical landscape of the journey presents numerous challenges for Phoenix, and though she is a tired woman at the end of the story, readers also realize that she must endure the entire journey in reverse in order to take the medicine back home to her grandson.