Kenyatta StackhouseEnglish 206Dr. Christopher Mattie Rigsbee is the maincharacter in Clyde Edgerton’s southern style novel, Walking Across Egypt. Mattieis a seventy-eight year old widow with two middle-aged children. Living alone ina small house, she makes sure that everything is taken care of. Although beginsto display some signs of aging, and her family is trying to convince her to slowdown her lifestyle, Mattie’s character and mind setting prohibits her frombecoming the stereotypical elder. She must make a decision in which direction toturn. “I’m too old to keep a dog,” she says to the dogcatcher as he isleaving with a brown fice that showed up on her doorstep (Edgerton 20).
“Besides, I’m slowing down,” she says to her son during lunch(Edgerton 5). The stereotypes of the elderly are influencing Mattie’s life. Sheis telling herself not to do things because of her age whether or not she isphysically able to do them, simply because people associate age with inabilityand dependence upon others. Her family and friends are expecting and encouragingthis dependence. Elaine and Robert, Mattie’s two unmarried children, along withother family and friends, are encouraging her to be what they expect aseventy-eight year old woman to be. They talk about how she needs to get restbecause she is slowing down and can’t keep going as steady as she seems tothink. 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 thenight with her, Robert thought that Mattie was sick. Pearl Turnage, Mattie’solder sister, has given in to the stereotypes that are now plaguing Mattie, andinsists that she do the same. In fact, she invites Mattie to accompany her tothe funeral home where they will each pick out a casket that they are to beburied in. Pearl pushes the subject, as if to force Mattie into realizing thatshe doesn’t have much time left to live. Pearl also begins talking to Mattieabout the past and the fun that they once had, as if to tell Mattie that thosedays 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 tothe lifestyle that Mattie has chosen to pursue. Mattie wants more of those goodtimes to talk about. Mattie has grown up with the same expectations of elderlypeople as everyone else, however, she chooses not to live her life based onthese expectations, but rather on how her feelings lead her. At the beginning ofthe novel, she is unsure about what direction she wants to take in life. Sheturns down the dog, and says that she needs to slow down, but at the end shemakes a realization about the person that she wishes to be. She makes thecomment at the beginning about how she is “too old” to keep a dog, yetat the end, she asks whether or not he is still in the pound. She even islaughing about falling through the bottom of the rocking chair even though shewas worried about injuring herself at the time it happened. And she sends herchildren through a loop when she decides to raise the juvenile, Wesley, in herhome. Although she is beginning to display some signs of aging and her familytries desperately to have her slow her life down, Mattie Rigsbee has a strongcharacter that is prohibiting her from becoming the stereotypical elder. She hasmade a decision in her life on which road that she will take to begin the restof her life. She has not turned onto the dead-end road of reminiscence,disability and dependence, but rather onto the long, fulfilling road of life,happiness, and salvation. Life is good for Ms. Rigsbee.