How is the old woman facing difficulties in life?

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Phoenix Jackson is very old and poor. The cane she uses to walk is made from an umbrella. The "worn path" represents the actual path she must take each time she goes into town to get medicine for her grandson. Phoenix is nearly blind and she uses the cane to help her find her way. Given her age and physical limitations, the journey is difficult in and of itself. Phoenix is so old that she was too old to attend school at the end of the Civil War. When she confronts the hunter, he says "you must be a hundred years old, and scared of nothing."

Phoenix is poor but resourceful. She manages to steal a fallen nickel from the hunter and solicits another nickel from the nurse. She has no education and therefore she has limited ways of getting money. It must also be noted that Phoenix has to deal with racism in her life. This is not overt in the story but the way the hunter treats her suggests racist motivations. Both he and the nurse call her "Granny" and "Grandma" which are subtle indications of condescension. So, she is an old, poor, black woman living in the South. Despite her limitations, she survives. Welty gives her the name "Phoenix" because she seems to rise again and again in spite of her difficulties.

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