Study Guide

The Shopper in A Worn Path

By Eudora Welty

The Shopper

The shopper is a very minor character—all she does is stop for a couple seconds to tie Phoenix's shoes when Phoenix asks her to. However, in a story in which the main character only speaks to four people, we figure it's worth mentioning all four of them.

The shopper works as a kind of foil to the hunter. Both stop to help Phoenix, but the shopper is described as a "nice lady" (65) who provides assistance without the overtly threatening presence that accompanies the hunter. Instead of carrying a gun and a bag of fresh kill like the hunter does, this woman carries a stack of presents, which she puts down on the sidewalk in order to stoop down and lace and tie Phoenix's shoes "tightly" (64), a word that demonstrates care.

The shopper does not question Phoenix or her purpose, nor does she challenge her as the hunter does. She simply acquiesces to help and goes about her way while Phoenix goes about hers.

The shopper is of a different world than Phoenix for sure. She is loaded down with brightly wrapped gifts, and she is wearing rose-scented perfume; she navigates the commercial city life fluidly, while Phoenix is clearly an outsider. It's possible to judge the shopper a little for not helping out the old woman more—she could have offered to escort Phoenix to her destination, or perhaps bought her a hot cup of tea—but nevertheless, her interaction with Phoenix comes without condescension, question, or threat, which marks it as exceptional in this story.

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