The following words (in bold) are those that are likely to have the most impact in "A Worn Path":
Grandson: Phoenix is on a quest to obtain needed medicine for her grandson. She endures numerous challenges along her path and makes the trip "regular as clockwork" because his throat never heals. Phoenix is willing to endure any difficulty in order to obtain the help her grandson needs; this demonstrates an incredible love for him
Phoenix: Her name itself is a symbol in the story. A mythological phoenix lives for centuries and then burns to ashes. After death, the bird rises out of those ashes as a young bird and lives once more. Phoenix is much like the bird who reinvents itself after incredible hardship. When she finds herself disoriented in the city, Phoenix finally acclimates to her modern and hectic surroundings in order to create hope out of her circumstances. Like the bird, she completes this journey over and over again
Free: This word actually appears three times in the story, most notably in the closing lines. Phoenix faces obstacles that reflect negative attitudes about her age (note the use of Old Phoenix in the story), her race, and her socioeconomic status. Yet the obstacles she faces never hold Phoenix down for long. She frees herself from bushes, faces a white hunter who demands that she return home, and faces being called a "charity case" once she finally reaches the physician's office. Phoenix perseveres through each obstacle, one challenge at a time, until she achieves her goal. She refuses to submit to society's attempts to restrain her, proving herself ultimately free to chart her own course in life, one small victory at a time.