A Worn Path

A Worn Path Literary Elements


Short Story

Setting and Context

Mississippi, early 20th century

Narrator and Point of View

Limited third-person omniscient

Tone and Mood

Tone: sympathetic, poignant, placid, mischievous

Mood: determined, dreamy, sympathetic, apprehensive

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonist: Phoenix Antagonist: Hunter, Attendant

Major Conflict

Will Phoenix make it safely to pick up the medicine for her grandson?


There isn't a traditional climax, but it is most likely when Phoenix finally makes it to Natchez.


1. Phoenix's interaction with the hunter, the first other human she's met, foreshadows her troubles with the women she deals with at the clinic. She is able to navigate nature easily enough, but the white townspeople are more antagonistic to her than animals or branches or logs.
2. When Phoenix sees a little boy bring her a slice of cake, this foreshadows the reader's learning what the point of her journey is—to procure medicine for her grandson.


When the hunter asks Phoenix if she is scared of his gun, she replies, "No, sir, I seen plenty go off closer by, in my day, and for less than what I done." This is an understatement because it suggests that Phoenix has witnessed, or perhaps experienced, threats or acts of violence that her words belie.


1. "The Surrender" is when the South surrendered to the North in 1865, ending the Civil War.
2. Phoenix evokes God, saying "the good Lord made his snakes to curl up and sleep in the winter."


The imagery in this text serves to reinforce Phoenix's association with the natural world and her relative ease in navigating it, as well as demonstrate the subtle but important shifts for her when she arrives in Natchez.


Phoenix is described as very old, wearing unlaced shoes, and frail and unstable; yet, she skillfully crosses a log and makes it through a maze. She is also described as having eyes "blue with age," not being able to discern the scarecrow immediately, and that her "senses is gone." Yet, "without warning, she had seen with her own eyes a flashing nickel fall out of [the hunter's] pocket onto the ground."



Metonymy and Synecdoche



1. "Thorns, you doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass—no, sir."
2. Phoenix describes the field as "whispering."
3. "A dream visited her . . . "