Phoenix Jackson : Is the protagonist of the story. She is described in vivid colors, suggesting her lively nature: she wears a red rag in her hair and her skin is described as “yellow,” “golden” and “copper.” Her age is indicated by the way she moves — slowly, in small steps, with the assistance of a cane — and by the wrinkles on her face, which form “a pattern all its own . . . as though a whole little tree stood in the middle of her forehead.” Because of her frailty, her determination to continue on her journey highlights her resilience and perseverance. Old Phoenix sees the Natchez Trace as an obstacle course, one that she tolerates with a fair sense of humor.. She tells the animals to stay out of her way. Her dress gets caught in a thorny bush, and she tells the thorns “you doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass, no sir.” When a dog causes her to fall into a ditch she cannot climb out of, she simply awaits help, her sense of determination never succumbs to defeat.
The Hunter :
He encounters Phoenix after she has fallen into a ditch, the unfortunate result of an encounter with one of his dogs. He helps her up, demonstrating his willingness to assist a person in need. But his subsequent conversation with her reveals his disrespect for her and biased attitudes towards African Americans in general. When he learns that she intends to walk to town, he assumes Phoenix is not able to make the long journey and he tells her to go home; he has no qualms about issuing the order.
The Nurse :
The nurse reveals information about Phoenix Jackson that the reader does not know during the course of her journey. The nurse, who represents society’s general attitudes, displays some sensitivity towards the woman, assuring the attendant that “Old Aunt Phoenix. . . doesn’t come for herself — she has a little grandson.” Knowing this the nurse still treats phoenix the...