A Worn Path

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Woman Character Analysis

Phoenix stops this woman on the street and asks the woman to tie her (Phoenix’s) shoes. The woman, who is probably white, obliges, and kneels down in a scene reminiscent of Mary Magdalene washing Christ’s feet. Yet, at the same time, the woman gruffly tells Phoenix to stand still, indicating her distaste and sense of superiority.

Woman Quotes in A Worn Path

The A Worn Path quotes below are all either spoken by Woman or refer to Woman. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race and Class Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harcourt Brace edition of A Worn Path published in 1982.
A Worn Path Quotes

"See my shoe," said Phoenix. "Do all right for out in the country, but wouldn't look right to go in a big building." "Stand still then, Grandma," said the lady. She put her packages down on the sidewalk beside her and laced and tied both shoes tightly.

Related Characters: Phoenix Jackson (speaker), Woman
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

Phoenix has arrived in the town, which is decorated for Christmas. She encounters a lady carrying presents who smells like "the red roses in hot summer," and Phoenix asks her to please tie up her shoe. In this passage, Phoenix explains that her untied shoes "do all right for out in the country," but now that she is in town she needs them to be done up. This scene provides another interesting twist in the depiction of race and class relations. Although the lady's race is not specified, she is probably white and certainly more affluent than Phoenix, as evidenced by the fact that she is wearing perfume and carrying an armful of wrapped presents. 

Despite the imbalance in their racial and class backgrounds, Phoenix does not hesitate in asking the woman to tie her shoe, again revealing her fearlessness and commitment to her own dignity. The reversal in the power relations between the two women recalls Mary Magdalene washing the feet of Jesus, or Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, although in the latter instance it would be not Phoenix who represents Jesus, but the unnamed lady. However, unlike Phoenix, the lady does not exhibit Christlike patience and humility, but rather brusquely instructs: "Stand still then, Grandma."  


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Woman Character Timeline in A Worn Path

The timeline below shows where the character Woman appears in A Worn Path. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Worn Path
Race and Class Theme Icon
Nature and City Theme Icon
Human Dignity Theme Icon
Christian Overtones Theme Icon
A woman carrying a number of presents in her hands walks by and Phoenix stops her to... (full context)