February 14, 2009
The Character of Phoenix Jackson in “A Worn Path”
The protagonist of Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” is Phoenix Jackson, an old, weak, and poverty-stricken who describes her journey from her home to the city to get medicine for her sick grandson. This story is told from a third-person limited omniscient point of view. The narrator sees all, hears all, but only from the point of view of a single character, which allows readers to understand Phoenix. The story focuses on the determination Phoenix exhibits when faced with a variety of unique obstacles on her journey to the city of Natchez. Throughout the story Phoenix Jackson has to overcome various forms of distractions and difficulties that seek to prevent her from reaching her ultimate goal, which is to showcase her undying devotion to her grandson by helping him in any way necessary. As she walks through a worn path her personality and characteristics are slowly revealed. Her determination, old age (wisdom), and her scattered thoughts help reveal to readers exactly what type of individual Phoenix Jackson really is. Her stream-of-conscience thoughts describe the changes she encounters as she walks through pine trees, crosses a stream and meets a mysterious white man and his dog, and as she sits at the doctor’s office. The story opens on a bright frozen December day. Phoenix is an old black woman who is making her way slowly through the dark pine woods, moving a little from side to side. The narrator states, “She carried a thin, small cane made from an umbrella” (95). She is wearing a “dark stripped dress reaching down to her shoe tops, and an equally long apron of bleached sugar sacks, with a full pocket: all neat and tidy, but every time she took a step she might have fallen over her laces…” (95). The brief, yet detailed, description about Phoenix’s clothes forces readers to visualize her character grows, as the reader encounters and troubles she is going through; it feels as if the reader has...
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