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.
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