“Out of my way, all you foxes, owls, beetles, jack rabbits, coons and wild animals! ... Keep out from under these feet,Racoon Wild Hog little bob-whites ... Keep the big wild hogs out of my path. Dont let none of those come running my direction. I got a long way.”Jack Rabbit Bobwhite
“The path ran up a hill. Seem like there is chainsabout my feet.”
Oak trees“Up through pines,” she said at length. “Now downthrough oaks.”
Thorny Bush“Thorns, you doing your appointed work. Never wantto let folks pass—no, sir. Old eyes thought you was apretty little green bush.”
“At the foot of this hill was a place where a logwas laid across the creek.”
“when a little boy brought her a plate with a slice of marble-cake on it she spoke to him. That would be acceptable, shesaid. But when she went to take it there was just her ownhand in the air.”
“So she . . . had to go through a barbed-wire fence. There she had to creep andcrawl, spreading her knees andstretching her fingers like a baby tryingto climb the steps.”
Glad this not the season for bulls, she said, looking sideways, and thegood Lord made his snakes to curl up and sleep in the winter. Apleasure I dont see no two-headed snake coming around that tree,where it come once. It took a while to get by him, back in the summer.
“She passed through the oldcotton and went into a fieldof dead corn. It whisperedand shook, and was tallerthan her head. Through themaze now, she said, forthere was no path.”
“Then there wassomething tall, black,and skinny there,moving before her.At first she took it fora man. It could havebeen a man dancing inthe field. But shestood still andlistened, and it did notmake a sound. It wasas silent as a ghost.” Scarecrow
. “Sleep on, alligators, and blow your bubbles.”
“A big black dog with a lolling tongue came upout of the weeds by the ditch.”
“He gave another laugh, filling the whole landscape.I know you old colored people! Wouldnt miss goingto town to see Santa Claus!”
“I bound to go on my way, mister, said Phoenix. She inclined her headin the red rag. Then they went in different directions, but she couldhear the gun shooting again and again over the hill.”
“Speak up, Grandma, thewoman said. Whats yourname? We must have yourhistory, you know. Haveyou been here before?What seems to be thetrouble with you?Old Phoenix only gave atwitch to her face as if a flywere bothering her.Are you deaf? cried theattendant. ”
“I going to the store and buy my child a little windmill they sells, madeout of paper. He going to find it hard to believe there such a thing inthe world. Ill march myself back where he waiting, holding it straightup in this hand.”
PLOTSTAGES OF THE PLOTThe Exposition: In the opening paragraphs, we are introduced to the main character, the setting, and the beginning of the journey.The Rising Action: The action complicates as Phoenix faces difficulties along the path (upward and downward hills, animals, thorny bush, crossing the creek, the dog, falling into a ditch, the maze, the barbed-wire fence, and the hunter)
The Climax: The encounter with the two women at the doctor’s office is the turning point in the story. Phoenix’ falling into forgetfulness and regaining her memory can be seen as the climax of the story.The falling action and resolution: Phoenix gets the medicine and begins her journey back.
CONFLICTPhysical (Man vs nature and the surroundings): Phoenix’ old age, the cold weather, the difficulty of the path, upward and downward hills, the animals, thorny bush, crossing the creek, the dog, falling into a ditch, the maze, the barbed-wire fence.Social (Man vs man): Phoenix vs the hunter Phoenix vs the women at the doctor’s officePsychological (Man vs himself/herself): Phoenix struggles against herself to complete the difficult path. “Something always take a hold of me on this hill—pleads I should stay,” she says.
POINT OF VIEWThe story is told from a third person limitedpoint of view. The narrator allows us to viewthe thoughts and feelings of old Phoenix.
SETTING The story is set in the Natchez Trace in thesouthwestern state of Mississippi. The Trace is anold highway that runs from Nashville, Tennessee,to Natchez, Mississippi (see the map on slide 5).The scene begins in the woods and then shifts tothe city of Natchez. The action takes place in December, theChristmas time, during the 1940s.
THEMESLovePhoenix is determined to complete the hard journey toget the medicine for her grandson. Motivated only bylove, she is ready to suffer all the hardships of the path.The message is that love can conquer everything.RacismThe story represents the attitudes of many SouthernWhite Americans towards African Americans during the1940s. The disrespectful treatment of the Blacks by theWhites is represented by the hunter and the women atthe doctor’s office.
SYMBOLISM The story is full of interesting symbols:• The journey of the protagonist along the worn path is a symbol of the path of life.• The uphill and downhill phases of the path correspond to the beginning of life towards its prime and the decline towards death.• The obstacles that Phoenix meets throughout the trip are equivalent to the trials and tribulations of life.• The thorny bush is a symbol of the deceptive dangers that appear harmless.• The scarecrow is a symbol of the imagined dangers or unjustified physiological fears that hinder our advance.• The slice of cake on the plate is a symbol of the unfulfilled joys of life. The marble cake can also be symbolic of the blending of blacks and whites that was not fulfilled.• The maze in the corn field is a symbol of the confusion, uncertainty, and loss of direction in life in which can happen to people.• The snake can be a symbol of temptation.• The windmill can be a symbol of the cycle of life that is repeated.
• The most prominent symbol is that related to the mythological phoenix. Phoenix Jackson’s name refers to the phoenix myth in Egyptian mythology. The mythological phoenix was a bird that lived five hundred years, then died in fire and rose from the ashes to new life. Perhaps the most incredible power is the determination of the phoenix to travel to Heliopolis in Egypt, the sun city, towards the end of its life, where her life cycle starts over. It is a symbol of survival, hope, promise, and continuity. There are many parallels between the phoenix myth and the story of the protagonist. First, Old Phoenix resembles the mythical bird in appearance. She is described in terms of red and gold colors, the colors of the phoenix: "a golden color ran underneath, and the two knobs of her cheeks were illumined by a yellow burning under the dark. Under the red rag her hair came down on her neck.” Phoenix’ age refers to the five hundred years that the phoenix lived before it rose again from fire. The trip to the city to get the medicine represents the mythological trip that the Phoenix takes to the sun to die.
Phoenix’s arrival at the hospital marks aturning point in the story and a moment ofchange. She unable to talk to anyone, includingthe attendant who keeps asking her questions:“there was a fixed and ceremonial stiffness over[Phoenixs] body.” Finally, Phoenix comes back tolife: “there was a flicker and then a flame ofcomprehension across her face, and she spoke.”The description of Phoenix’ lapse into oblivionand her recovery from the state of forgetfulnessseem to echo the rebirth of the phoenix. She isreborn again and will start her journey back.
CHARACTERSPhoenix Jackson She is the protagonist of the story. She is anelderly and frail woman. Her age and her weaknessmake her determination to continue on her journeyadmirable. She has a sense of humor that makes her laugh atthe difficult situations she meets, like when she iscaught by the thorny bush, when she falls in the ditch,and when she thinks that the scarecrow is a ghost.She keeps talking to the animals, telling them to keepout of her way.
She is brave and remains fearless in the faceof the hunter’s gun. She is not affected by thenegative remarks of either the hunter or theattendant at the doctor’s office. Phoenix’s name suggests her as a symbol ofsurvival and of the ability to withstand all theopposite forces that try to break her spirit.