Throughout "A Worn Path," Phoenix accepts as reality many things that most of us would consider fantasy. Dreams and daydreams mix with events that actually happen, and animals, buildings, and the natural environment are personified often. Phoenix engages with her non-human surroundings as if doing so is the most normal thing in the world.
But Phoenix's reality is not just different because she has an active imagination and a funny habit of talking to animals. The facts of Phoenix's life and identity impact the way she experiences the world, too. She experiences life as a poor, old, black woman in the Deep South, which is a very specific experience, distinct from those of say, white people or people with money. Phoenix faces certain obstacles because of her age, race, gender, and class that others of different ages, races, or genders might not face or might face in different ways.
Questions About Versions of Reality
- Slippages between the real and the more fantastical or other-worldly are pretty common in this story. Does this remind you of any other types of literature you have read? Perhaps some fairy tales, legends, or other short stories? How does this affect your understanding of the story?
- How does the writing make the natural world spring to life? Why does this matter for the story?
- How do Phoenix's age, race, socio-economic status, and gender affect the way she views reality? In turn, how do the ages, races, socio-economic statuses, and genders of other characters affect the way they view reality?
Chew on This
The mingling of the real with the fantastical in "A Worn Path" resembles the storytelling traditions common among slaves in the South.
The story and Phoenix's character in particular demonstrate how difficult it is to incorporate new realities into our worldviews as we grow older.