A Worn Path: Phoenix Jackson
1. ) The protagonist in “A Worn Path” is Phoenix Jackson, an elderly black woman who lives along the Natchez Trace. History shows that the Natchez Trace was a road begun in 1806, extending from Mississippi to Tennessee and was approximately 500 miles long. The story depicts Phoenix’s long journey on foot, from her home to Natchez, a small outlying town. The story characterizes both internal and external conflicts in Phoenix’s quest to acquire medicine for her sick grandson. Poor vision, unsteady gait, age, and nature are impediments against Phoenix but she unselfishly presses forward for the health of her grandson. . ) Phoenix faces antagonists both internal and external on her long journey to town. External factors: her obvious age, impaired gait (falling in a ditch), poor vision (she thinks she sees a dancing ghost but really it’s a scarecrow, recalls seeing a two-headed snake, a boy approaches her and offers her a piece of marble cake-no child was present),weather (cold frozen earth), untied shoelaces/attire, wild animals (which she thinks are in her path), bush/thickets (she thinks is a green bush), large log lying in her path, a barbed wire fence, big black dog, hunter.
Internal factors: her conscious (knows stealing is wrong but pockets the nickel anyways), fearless (hunter points the gun at her), and memory loss (can’t remember what she made her long journey for when she gets to the hospital). 3. ) When reading the title of this short story, “A Worn Path” the theme it hints at is a path worn due to a symbolic journey. After reading the story, the major theme remains the same. The story is set during the Christmas season which may symbolize Christianity.
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Phoenix represents the true spirit of giving and self-sacrifice when she walks to town for her grandson. The hunter assumes she is going to town to see Santa Claus and the nurse at the hospital dismisses her as a charity case. Despite the obstacles the she faces along her journey, Phoenix is determined to get the medicine needed to treat her grandson. 4&5. )A Phoenix is a mythical Egyptian bird symbolizing resurrection.
After living for centuries, it dies, and rises from its own ashes. Phoenix helps create a theme of life emerging from death in this story. The mythological and Christianity symbolism for Phoenix is why I feel that Welty chose the name as the Protagonist in this short story. The name is significant in this story because it ties the Christian and mythical meaning of Phoenix together . Phoenix is the symbol of perseverance, stamina, and life in the face of hardship and death.