“A Worn Path” begins in a rural area some distance outside the city of Natchez, Mississippi and moves along with Phoenix as she walks towards the hospital in the center of the city. The rural road is arduous, causing Phoenix to fall into a ditch, and at that moment it seems likely that Phoenix’s trip will get easier once she gets into the “paved city.” Yet there are also aspects of nature that fill Phoenix with joy, and as she enters the city it becomes clear that while the physical path is more sure, there is danger, perhaps greater danger, in the social realities of a populated place.
At first, the hunter, who lives in the city but goes out in the country to hunt, attempts to dissuade Phoenix from going to the city at all, essentially asserting that it is a place where she does not belong. When Phoenix does reach the city, her lack of place there is emphasized by her inability to read the document on the wall of the doctor’s office. The city requires an education Phoenix never received. Yet Phoenix asserts her belonging and presence in the city – her right to occupy the entirety of the world around her – by proclaiming, “Here I be.”
Nature and City ThemeTracker
Nature and City Quotes in A Worn Path
“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.”
“Thorns, you doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass, no sir. Old eyes thought you was a pretty little green bush.”
“Glad this not the season for bulls…and the good Lord made his snakes to curl up and sleep in the winter.”
“This the easy place. This the easy going.”
"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!"
“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.”
"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.
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.
“Here I be,” she said. There was a fixed and ceremonial stiffness over her body.