Phoenix Jones Character Analysis

8 August 2016

They say with age, comes wisdom. They say a tough life will build tough people. That the world, no matter how terrible it may seem or how bad things get, is only what you make of it. This has never been shown more so by Phoenix Jackson from Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path”. Encumbered with age and poverty, Phoenix shows fortitude, cleverness, and a child-like view of the world while traveling to the city for medicine. Welty’s love of literature from her mother, and classic writing style with African American characters (Marrs) is clearly displayed in “A Warn Path”.

Eudora Welty, whose life spanned most of the 20th century, represented the world of the deep American South in multiple genres. In stories, novels, and photography, the Pulitzer Prize winner was especially interested in the relationship of place to character. Her art explores the impact of place on the life of the individual depending on race, gender, and economic status, as well as the reverse influence of the individual character on environment, which is exeptionally displayed in “A Warn Path” (Marrs).

In “A worn path” an elderly african-american woman, named Pheonix Jones, is up against the world on her way to town. Armed with nothing but her cane, she maneuvers through obstactle after obstacle, showing perseverence in the highest fashion through every disincentive that inhibits her journey. As such, her story depicts the Depression in the United States from the vantage point of a victim insufficiently represented in art—though a victim who, like the mythological phoenix her name evokes, resists annihilation, Phoenix transcends the abuse she experiences.

This essay will explore Eudora Welty’s character Phoenix Jones’s most exemplary traits. It will shine light on her fortitude, ingenuity, and light hearted view of the world. Provided along with Phoenix’s traits is examples in which she shows each trait, with direct reference to “A worn path”. Imagine, having every bone in your body weakened with over seventy plus years of aging. You now have the bones of Phoenix Jones. Weakened, she struggles to get to town. Yet, still she keeps trecking over every obstacle thrown at her.

This calls to merit her outstanding fortitude. At one point she encounters a barbed wire fence. With barbs glaring at her, hungry to put a halt to her journey, “There she had to creep and crawl, spreading her knees and stretching her fingers like a baby trying to climb the steps. But she talked loudly to herself: she could not let her dress be torn now, so late in the day, and she could not pay for having her arm or her leg sawed off if she got caught fast where she was. At last she was safe throught the fence and risen up out of the clearing,” (Welty 850).

This is a fine example of her phenominal perseverance and fortitude, showing she was not only going to get through, but she refused to let that fence make even a scratch on her dress. And even before that, at the start of her journey, she already had shown her tremendous amount of determination. As she starts out on her journey she exclaims with a fiery attitude “Out of my way, all you foxes, owls, beetles, jack rabbits, coons and wild animals! Keep out from under theses feet, little bob whites. Keep the big wild hots out of my path.

Don’t let none of those come running my direction. I got a long way” (Welty 849-850). This shows that her mind is already set on getting to town and nothing is stopping her. These fine examples show the true, raw determination and fortitude within Pheonix Jones, showing that she may be frail, but she is anything but weak. There are few things that make true “good character”. Imagination is one of them. No one has better imagination than a child. A child sees the world as something different… something better.

Phoenix Jones clearly holds her inner-child within herself after all these years. After traveling a piece she decides to rest. “Up above her was a tree in a pearly cloud of mistletoe. She did not dare to close her eyes, and when a little boy brought her a plate with a slice of marble cake on it she spoke to him. “That would be exceptable,” she said” (Welty 850). Her imagination peeking forth, this shows even through her journey, she imagines a little boy giving her a slice of delicious cake, presenting that everything does not have to be serious.

A little piece onward, she shows her enlightening imagination running wild again as she runs up on a menacing scarecrow that she gazes at from a distance. “Ghost,” she said sharply, “who you be the ghost of? For I have heard of nary death close by. ”… She found a coat inside that an emtiness, cold as ice. “You scarecrow” she said… ”Dance, old scare crow” she said, “while I dancing with you. ” She kicked her foot over the furrow, and with mouth drawn down, shook her head once or twice in a little strutting way,” (Welty 851).

Her fun loving child-like nature is highlighted through this passage, showing that she took a fear, and enlightened it when she found out it was a scarecrow, dancing with it, showing the trophy of imagination and optimism. Welty shows through Pheonix that imagination will never die, and that it is a precious tool to get over any obstacle. Further down the warn path, Phoenix is greeted by a discourteous hunter helping her up after she fell in a ditch in the wake of a nosy dog coming to investigate this strange intruder.

This point is where she shows her cleverness and wit. As she is talking to the hunter, “ Without warning, she had seen with her own eyes a flashing nickel fall out of the man’s pocket onto the ground” (Welty 843), and she said nothing. As it continues the hunter runs off and she wittily bent over in his absence and “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”(Welty 843).

As he later lies about having money to spare, this presents her wit, as she gained five cents from this brash traveller who has the audacity to later hold a gun to her head as a joke, which does not intimidate her, and only shows once again the fortitude previously stated in the last paragraph. As she gets to her destination, a clinic that she gets medicine from, she meets an attendant when she first walks in. She came to claim a bottle of medicine through charity for her grandson, which may just be a guise to get free medication, which in itself is a example of clever planning, the example I am using is of her interaction with the attendant.

“It’s Christmas time, Grandma,” said the attendant. “Could I give you a few pennies out of my purse? ” “Five pennies is a nickel,” said Phoenix stiffly” “Here’s a nickel,” said the attendant” (Welty 856). She persuades the attendant to give her a nickel, which in total gives her a dime, showing her witty resourcefulness. Whether she uses this ten cent for her grandson a windmill, or something else she wishes to buy, her adept skill and dexterity is presented as she uses wit and expierence to claim these precious boons. Pheonix Jones is a woman of many traits.

From her perseverance to her sly inginuity, she uses all her characteristics to get through “A Warn Path”. She shows her child like perception in a way that eases the burdon of travelling. To the hills and back again seven times fold, her fortitude and will is an object of pure sovereinty over obstacles in her way and in her head. And with just a little bit of quick thinking and bamboozlement she was able to obtain a secondary reward from her journey, a skill that comes in handy throughout her life. Pheonix Jones is a pure, text book definition of strong.

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