William T. Atkin III
Instructor: Helen C. Peemoeller
20 April 1999
Phoenix Rises From the Ashes
When asked by a white hunter “ Doesn’t the gun scare you?” while having it pointed at her, Phoenix Jackson, of Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path”, replies “No, sir. I seen plenty go off closer by, in my day, and for less than what I done,” This is an example of how the protagonist deals with another of her travails. Phoenix’s conflicts only hone the thrust of Welty’s tale of triumph over adversity. The irrelevancy of these tortures to this person’s purpose is made all the more poignant by their staggering weight.
From the first line of the narrative you learn the setting is December. A “frozen day”, and yet Phoenix does ought but rejoice that it is not the “season” for bulls and snakes. Given the numerous references to her advanced age: a delusion of a small boy handing her a slice of cake after navigating a log bridge, to “Her eyes blue with age.” She travels from the deep wood though the dangers of both terrain and prejudice. Throughout the story she encounters obstacles that would deter stalwart heroes of epics.
While traveling through the country Phoenix encounters a white hunter who helps her up after being knocked to the ground. Despite his threatening manner, pointing his gun at her, he tries to deter her from her task. He points out the distance she had to travel even to reach the point at which they had met. He callously explains that “I know you old colored people! Wouldn’t miss going to town to see Santa Claus!”. Lastly to add further injury to insult, after losing a nickel and not being aware of it, he claims to not have a penny to give her. All Phoenix does is apologize to “God” for having stolen it.
What fear grips a person who knows what they were doing was incredibly important, and yet they cannot recall what they were about? The attendant repeatedly attempted to communicate (in a condescending tone) with Phoenix, yet she had to ignore the questions, for she was unsure why she had made the journey. The nurse came to her rescue, and in so doing gave an explanation why “grandma” had made this arduous voyage. She was caring for her grandson who was suffering from the result of having swallowed lye; consequently at that level of medical and social evolution meant being an invalid without any other sociological resources than his grandmother.
Despite these travails Phoenix Jackson retains her composure, and more. Each of these incidents, although difficult to fully grasp within context of modern society, is still painful. Once she manages to reach town she manages to get a woman, busy with packages to assist her with one of her difficulties, her untied shoe. At the clinic she manages to push the attendant to 500% of her original offering. Subsequently she resolves to purchase her grandson a paper windmill with the two nickel profit she made entering town. These conflicts she faces only reflect the spirit shining from the character of Phoenix Jackson.