In A Worn Path, when Phoenix Jackson makes the long journey by foot into town she encounters several people who act as if they know her, calling her “granny,” “grandma,” or “Auntie Phoenix.” When she reaches her final destination, which we learn is some kind of medical facility, she is also labeled “charity.” The nurses at this place label her as a charity case as soon as she enters the door. While compared to her other encounter with the hunter in the woods, it seems these people are actually trying to help her but is still labeled as some kind of nuisance—“charity.” It is clear that the nurses are annoyed by her presence, especially when she becomes disoriented and forgets why she came, which we learn was to pick up medicine for her sick grandson. While the people Phoenix encounters, even the nurses who call her “Aunt Phoenix” and “charity,” try to confine Phoenix within the realms of ageism to a stereotypical, ignorant old woman, Welty makes us see that Phoenix is not average at all and that the people around her are far more clueless than she is.
The hunter is the first character that stereotypically labels her and brushes Phoenix off as a nuisance. He is extremely rude when calling her “granny” as he is obviously not related to her. Another way that he labels her is also by her race and class when he says that her kind of people would make that long journey to see Santa Claus. We learn that Phoenix is on this long walk through the woods for a much higher purpose, and although she doesn’t say it out loud, the reader is made aware that Phoenix is way outside the “frame” that the hunter thinks she is bound to.
It isn’t really clear how disoriented Phoenix is when she encounters the hunter. She is having some kind of monologue with herself about the forest and the animals and plants, but I think maybe she doesn’t stick up for herself to the hunter not because she is confused, but because she knows it would be a waste of breath. I think at this point in her life, Phoenix knows what is important and does not give in to stereotypes of her or even acknowledge them anymore.
Welty, Eudora. “A Worn Path.” Perrine’s Story and Structure: An Introduction to Fiction. 13th ed.