When the going gets tough, the tough get going, right? But how about when the going stays tough? What happens then? Well, as we see in "A Worn Path," Phoenix Jackson just keeps her eyes on the prize. Though we only watch one cycle through, we know she makes the arduous trip into town over and over again, every time her grandson needs more medicine. By the time we catch up with her, he's already needed it for years. If Phoenix's tireless commitment to this journey isn't the definition of perseverance, then our name's not Shmoop. And it is, you guys. It definitely is.
Questions About Perseverance
Why do you think Welty waits so long to reveal the reason for Phoenix's journey? What impact does withholding that information have on the story? Be specific.
Other characters in the story fail to understand Phoenix's determination, encouraging her to turn back or pointing out the futility of her journey. Do they have a point? Is it foolish for Phoenix to continue making the journey for her grandson's medicine even though it has not resolved his illness? Why is it so hard for others to see the journey from Phoenix's perspective and comprehend her will to persevere?
What are the biggest obstacles Phoenix must overcome? Are there ever any moments when you doubt her perseverance? Which ones? And either way, what does this tell you about perseverance thematically in this story?
Chew on This
Phoenix's story demonstrates that the strongest motivation to persevere is love.
Other characters rightly classify Phoenix's journeys as misguided and futile efforts rooted in ill-placed hope.