A Worn Path

Phoenix Jackson Character Analysis

Phoenix, an aged and frail but also fierce woman (she was born into slavery in the pre-Civil-War South, though the story takes place in 1940), will not allow anything in her path to stop her from getting to her end goal, which is to retrieve medicine in town for her grandson. Though on her journey from her rural home into the Mississippi town of Natchez – which she has made several times before – she is confronted with both natural obstacles and racially tense encounters, she works through them with dignity, grace, and quite a bit of cleverness. Though her journey exhausts her emotionally and physically, she is seen through by her indefatigable optimism, faith in God, and love for her grandson. By the end of the story she has stated her place in the world and reaffirmed her hope in and for her grandson, and her perseverance and enduring hope in continuing to carve out her worn path – both the path into town and the path of her life – she reaffirms a kind of hope for all the powerless. She also functions as a Christ figure in the story.

Phoenix Jackson Quotes in A Worn Path

The A Worn Path quotes below are all either spoken by Phoenix Jackson or refer to Phoenix Jackson. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harcourt Brace edition of A Worn Path published in 1982.
A Worn Path Quotes

“Seems like there is chains about my feet, time I get this far…Something always takes a hold of me on this hill—pleads I should stay.”

Related Characters: Phoenix Jackson (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Worn Path
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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“Thorns, you doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass, no sir. Old eyes thought you was a pretty little green bush.”

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

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“Now comes the trial.”

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

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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:

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“This the easy place. This the easy going.”

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

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"Why, that's too far! That's as far as I walk when I come out myself, and I get something for my trouble." He patted the stuffed bag he carried, and there hung down a little closed claw. It was one of the bob-whites, with its beak hooked bitterly to show it was dead. "Now you go on home, Granny!"

Related Characters: Hunter (speaker), Phoenix Jackson
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

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He gave another laugh, filling the whole landscape. "I know you old colored people! Wouldn't miss going to town to see Santa Claus!"

Related Characters: Hunter (speaker), Phoenix Jackson
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

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“He ain’t scared of nobody. He a big black dog.”

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

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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:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

“No, sir, I seen plenty go off closer by, in my day, and for less than what I done.”

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

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“I’d give you a dime if I had any money with me. But you take my advice and stay home, and nothing will happen to you.”

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

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"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:

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She entered a door, and there she saw nailed up on the wall the document that had been stamped with the gold seal and framed in the gold frame, which matched the dream that was hung up in her head.

Related Characters: Phoenix Jackson
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

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“Here I be,” she said. There was a fixed and ceremonial stiffness over her body.

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

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“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:

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“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:
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

She lifted her free hand, gave a little nod, turned around…Then her slow step began on the stairs, going down.

Related Characters: Phoenix Jackson
Related Symbols: The Worn Path, The Paper Windmill
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

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Phoenix Jackson Character Timeline in A Worn Path

The timeline below shows where the character Phoenix Jackson 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
Perseverance and Power Theme Icon
Nature and City Theme Icon
...December a very old black woman walks slowly through a pine forest. Her name is Phoenix Jackson. She wears a red rag tied around her head, her shoes are unlaced, and... (full context)
Perseverance and Power Theme Icon
Human Dignity Theme Icon
Christian Overtones Theme Icon
Phoenix’s skirt gets tangled in a bush, and she carefully removes herself so that the fabric... (full context)
Perseverance and Power Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Christian Overtones Theme Icon
Sitting down to rest by a tree, Phoenix imagines a boy handing her a piece of cake, though she gets up quickly after... (full context)
Race and Class Theme Icon
Perseverance and Power Theme Icon
Human Dignity Theme Icon
Going through a field, Phoenix sees something “tall, black, and skinny”, which she mistakes for a “dancing” ghost. Only when... (full context)
Race and Class Theme Icon
Perseverance and Power Theme Icon
Nature and City Theme Icon
Human Dignity Theme Icon
Christian Overtones Theme Icon
...a young man, soon comes along, with a dog on a chain. He laughingly asks Phoenix, whom he calls “Granny,” what she’s doing in the ditch, before lifting her out. While... (full context)
Race and Class Theme Icon
Perseverance and Power Theme Icon
Human Dignity Theme Icon
Christian Overtones Theme Icon
Phoenix does not correct the hunter’s lack of understanding, and in fact keeps very still, because... (full context)
Race and Class Theme Icon
Perseverance and Power Theme Icon
Nature and City Theme Icon
Human Dignity Theme Icon
Christian Overtones Theme Icon
The hunter comes back after scaring off the dog, and, laughing, points the gun at Phoenix and asks her if she’s scared. She stands completely still, but tells him that she’s... (full context)
Race and Class Theme Icon
Perseverance and Power Theme Icon
Nature and City Theme Icon
Human Dignity Theme Icon
Christian Overtones Theme Icon
Reaching Natchez, Phoenix hears the bells ringing. It is Christmastime and she is disoriented by the lights, but... (full context)
Perseverance and Power Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Human Dignity Theme Icon
The nurse, speaking loudly and slowly, suggests that the grandson will never heal. Phoenix, however, says the boy’s suffering never holds him down and states that he is “going... (full context)
Race and Class Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Nature and City Theme Icon
Human Dignity Theme Icon
After this the nurse reveals that the doctor has said that as long as Phoenix can come get it, he will provide the medicine as charity. The nurse brings out... (full context)
Race and Class Theme Icon
Perseverance and Power Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Nature and City Theme Icon
Human Dignity Theme Icon
Phoenix puts both her coins next to each other in her palm, taps her cane on... (full context)