A Worn Path

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Themes and Colors
Race and Class Theme Icon
Perseverance and Power Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Nature and City Theme Icon
Human Dignity Theme Icon
Christian Overtones Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Worn Path, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Love Theme Icon

Phoenix might at times, due to age, forget the object of her mission, but this only underscores the deep love that motivates her to complete it. The reader is always aware of this underlying aspect of her journey, but as the story progresses and Phoenix steals the nickel from the hunter and then asks for another nickel from the hospital attendant, the story seems to complicate Phoenix’s love for her grandson with a sense that Phoenix is also out for a kind of personal gain. When it is revealed that Phoenix risked her life for the hunter’s nickel and her dignity for the nickel at the hospital all in order to have the money to buy her grandson a gift that will give him a sense of the wonders of the world, those complications die away and the force of her love for her grandson surges through the story. Phoenix’s love is not just one of loyalty or obligation—she endures the journey not just to keep her grandson alive and comfortable. Her love is more profound—she endures the journey to give her grandson a sense of what’s possible in the world, to give him hope. Just as a phoenix rises from its own ashes, Phoenix’s love offers her descendants a tiny step up, but also everything she can offer, in helping them rise up in the world.

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Love ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Love appears in each chapter of A Worn Path. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Love Quotes in A Worn Path

Below you will find the important quotes in A Worn Path related to the theme of Love.
A Worn Path Quotes

“Now comes the trial.”

Related Characters: Phoenix Jackson (speaker)
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

Phoenix has disentangled herself from the thorns, but is then faced with the additional challenge of walking along a log that has fallen over the creek at the bottom of the hill. As she prepares to walk over it, she remarks: "Now comes the trial." Once again, the story elevates Phoenix's simple interactions with the natural landscape into obstacles with a much greater significance. Phoenix's use of the word "trial" again links her experience to that of Christ, and the very fact that she is speaking aloud suggests she does not consider herself alone on her journey. Phoenix's comments also highlight the fact that she has walked on the path many times before and thus knows the challenges that lie along the way. 


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“Glad this not the season for bulls…and the good Lord made his snakes to curl up and sleep in the winter.”

Related Characters: Phoenix Jackson (speaker)
Page Number: 144
Explanation and Analysis:

Having successfully crossed the creek by walking over the log with her eyes closed, Phoenix pauses to rest by a tree, imagining a little boy bringing her a slice of marble cake. She then leaves the tree and has to climb under a fence, speaking "loudly" to herself as she does so and refusing to get stuck or let her dress get torn. As she continues on her way, she reflects that she is grateful it is "not the season for bulls" and that "the good Lord made his snakes to curl up and sleep." This passage emphasizes Phoenix's strength and humility. Despite all she has endured, she is still grateful that her journey is not even more difficult, and retains a deep faith in God's power over the world around her. 

Phoenix heard the dogs fighting, and heard the man running and throwing sticks. She even heard a gunshot. But she was slowly bending forward by that time, further and further forward, the lids stretched down over her eyes, as if she were doing this in her sleep. Her chin was lowered almost to her knees. The yellow palm of her hand came out from the fold of her apron. Her fingers slid down and along the ground under the piece of money with the grace and care they would have in lifting an egg from under a setting hen. Then she slowly straightened up, she stood erect, and the nickel was in her apron pocket. A bird flew by. Her lips moved. "God watching me the whole time. I come to stealing."

Related Characters: Phoenix Jackson (speaker), Hunter
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

Phoenix has distracted the hunter by encouraging him to set his own dog loose on the stray black dog that made her fall into a ditch. While the dogs fight, Phoenix slowly but skillfully picks up the nickel from the ground and puts it in her pocket. As soon as this is done, she notices a bird fly by, and acknowledges that God is watching her and has seen that she has been reduced to stealing. This passage reveals the complex ways in which Phoenix is forced to navigate the world in order to survive. Her skill in distracting the hunter from the nickel suggests that it is perhaps not the first time she has stolen something, and also that she is accustomed to being watched closely. 

Although Phoenix appears to feel guilty about the fact that God has seen her take the nickel, the actions of the hunter highlight the moral ambiguity of the situation. The hunter's arrogant dominance and Phoenix's frailty and poverty point to the vast injustice of the society in which they live. Meanwhile, the larger setting of the story--in the middle of a rural landscape filled with nonhuman animals--indicates that Phoenix's actions are a matter of survival more than morality. Like the plants and animals along the path, Phoenix must do what she can to get by in a treacherous world. Phoenix's statement that God is watching her "the whole time" indicates that God sees her steal, but also understands the circumstances which led her to commit this act. 

“We is the only two left in the world. He suffer and it don’t seem to put him back at all…He going to last…I could tell him from all the others in creation.”

Related Characters: Phoenix Jackson (speaker), Grandson
Related Symbols: Phoenix
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:

The nurse has explained to the attendant that Phoenix comes to get medicine for her grandson, who swallowed lye when he was young and still suffers immensely as a result. While the nurse seems pessimistic about the boy's health, Phoenix speaks about him with a deep sense of faith and love. It is clear from Phoenix's words that her grandson represents not just one individual case, but the whole future of black people in America. Whereas the nurse's view points to the immense difficulty and hardship that Phoenix's grandson experiences, Phoenix remains convinced that there is something special about her grandson that will ensure he endures ("He going to last"). 

Indeed, the character of the grandson can be seen as embodying the symbol of the phoenix, a view emphasized by Phoenix's comment that he sits at home in a quilt "holding his mouth open like a little bird." Through his misfortune and illness, the grandson exists in a state near to death; however, his grandmother maintains that, like the phoenix, he will ultimately survive and flourish. 

“This is what come to me to do…I going to the store and buy my child a little windmill they sells, made out of paper. He going to find it hard to believe there such a thing in the world.”

Related Characters: Phoenix Jackson (speaker), Grandson
Related Symbols: The Paper Windmill
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:
Phoenix has received the medicine and the attendant has offered her a nickel, an act of charity in keeping with the Christmas season. Phoenix accepts the money and resolves to buy her grandson a paper windmill, reflecting that he won't be able to "believe there such a thing in the world." Phoenix's plan reveals her selflessness and generosity, and undercuts any suspicions the reader might have developed (particular during the hunter's nickel scene) that Phoenix was partly out for her own material gain. Not only her decision to buy the windmill, but the entire trip to town in the first place has been in service only of her grandson. Despite her absolute poverty, she never considers putting herself above him. Phoenix's anticipation at her grandson's shock upon receiving the windmill is similarly moving, highlighting the scarcity of their lives by claiming that such a simple, fragile object will bring him such intense joy.