In the novel Fried Green Tomatoes she uniquely compares the modern day world to the world in the early and the middle 1900s. As the novel shifts from the 1930s to the 1980s the significance of life is seen through two of the main characters, Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode and Evelyn Couch, as life ends and begins. Fannie Flagg shows that living life to its fullest indeed has its consequences, but is the only way to live a happy life without regrets.
From her start in the late 1920s Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode knew a little girl by the name of Imogene but everyone called her Idgie. Idgie was one of the Threadgoodes and back in Whistle Stop the name Threadgoode was a good name to have. They were the basic life of this little town in Alabama. The Threadgoodes were people known and well liked by the rest of the sparsely populated area. The name she carried did not stop Idgie from doing whatever she wanted to do whenever she wanted to do it. Idgie used to do all kinds of harebrained things just to get you to laugh. She put poker chips in the collection basket at the Baptist church once. She was a character all right(12).
This shows that nothing would stop Idgie from doing her pranks and having her laughs. Maybe she was lectured by her priest or by her parents but she didnt regret it. Idgie was concerned with the present, not the past or the future. Of course she had her hardship thatwouldnt let her forget, like when her brother Buddy died, and she even looked forward to a day, but she lived in the present. She lived life for the moment. Now, seriously, Idgie, Im not trying to run your business or anything, but I just want to know if youre saving any money, thats all.
What for? Idgie said. Listen, money will kill you, you know that(31). This shows that Idgie was not concerned with what tomorrow will bring and if she is prepared for it or not. It also shows that Idgie is not concerned with wealth, she is more concerned about the well being of others. This next passage gives a better impression of her pure unselfish heart. We always ate and so did everybody else who ever came around there asking for foodand that was black and white. I never saw Aunt Idgie turn down a soul, and she was known to give a man a little drink if he needed it(329).
Idgie did not care about her own wealth, she cared for the well being of others and did not let a single person discourage her as she lived her rambunctious life. Even though she was never rich, she lost loved ones, and turned some people away with her attitude, she died happy. Her actions brought about consequences but she never had regret about anything. Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode, the wife of Mr. Cleo Threadgoode has lived her life in Whistle Stop, Alabama until she was put in a nursing home in the 1980s. She is growing senile but tells her stories to Mrs. Evelyn Couch, a younger woman who is physically overweight and mentally diminishing.
Mrs. Threadgoode is also a woman who is quite happy with her life and how she lived it. But she was much different from Idgie. She was not naturally the wild type and was never one to have urges to pull harmless pranks to get her kicks. She was more of an observer than a doer, but this doesnt mean she could not have possibly lived life to its fullest. Because she did live life the way she wanted. And if she was asked if she lived life to its fullest, she would say, The only thing Id do different if I could go back would be to get myself a drivers license(7).
Thats all! She was as close to perfection as she could be. When hearing this the question arises, How did she do it? Or, whats the secret? For Mrs. Threadgoode it was doing everything she wanted to. She was not concerned with material wealth and had faith that everything she needed would be provided by her God. Cleo and I never did have a lot of fancy things, but the good Lord provided, and we had everything we ever needed(26). This unselfishness and good faith gave her what she wanted, and all she wanted was nothing more than what she needed. She was fortunate enough to learn this throughout the years by the blindness of other people. In most cases it was money that blinded the people she knew. Theres a few rich women out here.
A couple of weeks ago, Mrs. Vesta Adock, this little bird-breasted woman I know whos from Whistle Stop, came in, wearing her fox furs and her diamond dinner rings. Shes one of the rich ones. But the rich ones dont seem happy to me. And Ill tell you something elsetheir children dont come to see them any more often than the rest.(27)These people like Mrs. Vesta Adock are blind from their own happiness. They cant see that their fox furs and diamond rings dont bring more happiness than other qualities, or being wealthy in memories like Mrs. Threadgoode is.
Sure, she doesnt have the cash or the clothes to show but she has her memories and her stories. And while a woman like Vesta may have spent her whole life behind some crummy desk breaking her fingers as a secretary just to achieve happiness, Mrs. Threadgoode experienced happiness throughout her entire life by doing what she wanted to do, she did not have to work to achieve it.
In Whistle Stop, Alabama, in the 1920s when Idgie was a still just a teenager an individual entered her life and influenced her more than any other person could. Her name was Ruth Jamison. She came to the Threadgoode house when she was 21 to help out, like a babysitter. Ruth is different from Idgie and Mrs. Threadgoode because she did not live her life to the fullest. Not only did she receive consequences from her choices but she also had regrets. She went through times when she was blind just like many of the rich people did. There is one thing that must be understood about Ruth and Idgie. They had a love that goes unexplained.
A love that Idgie so boldly stated she would die for. There was no doubt that Ruth felt the same way but she being in her twenties and Idgie being a teenager she felt she had an awful decision to make. She had no idea why she wanted to be with Idgie more than anybody on this earth, but she did. She had prayed about it, she had cried about it; but there was no answer except to go back home and marry Frank Bennet, the young man she was engaged to marry, and try to be a good wife and mother.(88-89)
These thoughts and decisions were derived from what she, as a part of society, knew to be right. In the twenties that was the way it was. Not like how it is today. As a young woman of this time period she felt obligated to be married, have children and live as a Housewife, since this is what all of the women she knew were doing. It was an absurd thought to go run off with another young girl. Even though this is exactly what she wanted to do. Although she new it wasnt the choice she wanted to make she made it and suffered the consequences. Hes blackened her eye and knocked her down the stairs, and once, he broke her arm(188).
As if it wasnt bad enough leaving Idgie, she had married the devil. This was a choice that Ruth would do anything to change. Luckily Idgie was still deeply in love with Ruth and came to her rescue. I admired Ruth for having the courage to walk away like that. It took real courage in those days, not like today, honey. Back then, if you were married, you stayed married(191).
This is the point at which Ruth started to realize she had to do something because this wasnt right. Her decision to leave her husband was not one to regret. But, she did regret not doing it earlier. All of the decisions Ruth made at this time in her life were not the ones she really wanted. She did not live day to day and she spent much of her life unhappy. She didnt live her life to the fullest and regretted it until the day she died.
Through these three people and their decisions and experiences it can be seen that happiness can not be experienced by living life the way someone else wants to live it. Living life with the expectations of anyone but oneself will lead not to happiness but to regret. Living life to its fullest brings happiness and is determined individually.