Walking Across Egypt

Walking Across Egypt

Mattie Rigsbee is the main character in

Clyde Edgerton\'s southern style novel, Walking Across Egypt. Mattie is
a seventy-eight year old widow with two middle-aged children. Living alone
in a small house, she makes sure that everything is taken care of. She
cooks, cleans, mows the lawn, and takes up numerous responsibilities with
the church. She is a very caring person with many friends and a family
that loves her dearly. At the time this novel takes place, Mattie is at
a turning point in her life. Confusion disturbed her, because the things
that people are telling her are not the words that she is ready or willing
to hear. Although begins to display some signs of aging, and her family
is trying to convince her to slow down her lifestyle, Mattie\'s character
and mind setting prohibits her from becoming the stereotypical elder. She
must make a decision in which direction to turn.

As Mattie grows older, she notices that
she is beginning to display some signs that people in her state of North

Carolina associate with the elderly. These signs are influencing her decisions
about what she thinks she can and cannot do. She displays typical, elderly
forgetfulness as she washes the toilet seat with mouthwash rather than
with alcohol. And again displays it as she falls through the bottomless
rocking chair. Later she displays physical inability when she asks her
son Robert about helping with some yard work, which she had always taken
care of before.

"I\'m too old to keep a dog," (20) she says
to the dogcatcher as he is leaving with a brown fice that showed up on
her doorstep. "Besides, I\'m slowing down," she says to her son during lunch.

The stereotypes of the elderly are influencing

Mattie\'s life. She is telling herself not to do things because of her age
whether or not she is physically able to do them, simply because people
associate age with inability and dependence upon others. Her family and
friends are expecting and encouraging this dependence.

Elaine and Robert, Mattie\'s two unmarried
children, along with other family and friends, are encouraging her to be
what they expect a seventy-eight year old woman to be. They talk about
how she needs to get rest because she is slowing down and can\'t keep going
as steady as she seems to think. When she decided to try and help a young
juvenile, Wesley Benfield, become a better person by taking him to church
and offering him to stay the night with her, Robert thought that Mattie
was sick.

"Robert was thinking about the symptoms.

What condition was his mother entering? Was it a phase of some sort? Was
she having some of those tiny strokes they talk about? Or Alzheimer\'s?
.... Maybe she needed a long rest. She was slowing down." (177-178)

He would have to tell Elaine about this
incident, because she is having the same fears as he.

Pearl Turnage, Mattie\'s older sister, has
given in to the stereotypes that are now plaguing Mattie, and insists that
she do the same. In fact, she invites Mattie to accompany her to the funeral
home where they will each pick out a casket that they are to be buried
in. Pearl pushes the subject, as if to force Mattie into realizing that
she doesn\'t have much time left to live. Pearl also begins talking to Mattie
about the past and the fun that they once had, as if to tell Mattie that
those days are over and that it is time for her to begin a new chapter
in her life. The future that Pearl has planned for herself, however, is
totally contrary to the lifestyle that Mattie has chosen to pursue. Mattie
wants more of those good times to talk about.

Mattie has grown up with the same expectations
of elderly people as everyone else, however, she chooses not to live her
life based on these expectations, but rather on how her feelings lead her.

At the beginning of the novel, she is unsure about what direction she wants
to take in life. She turns down the dog, and says that she needs to slow
down, but at the end she makes a realization about the person that she
wishes to be. She makes the comment at the beginning about how she is "too
old" to keep a dog, yet at the end, she asks whether or not he is still
in the pound. She even is laughing about falling through the bottom of
the rocking chair even though she was