Old Man and Old Woman as Marital Guide

Old Man and Old Woman as Marital Guide

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Old Man and Old Woman as Marital Guide  

"Old Man and Old Woman," a retelling of a Native American myth by Chewing Blackbones, a Blackfoot Indian, should serve as a lesson to all couples in how a good relationship works. In today’s society there is a great need for people to understand how to make their relationships successful. As the divorce rate gets higher every year; small children have begun to think that getting a divorce is something that is normal and to be expected. This story shows how to work through problems with a give-and-take approach where you make compromises, yet still stand up for yourself when you believe your convictions cannot be compromised.

The Old Man and Old Woman agree on certain rules from the beginning. It is important for couples to agree on certain points when they begin a relationship. Problems might arise later if certain ideals and standards for behavior are not established from the onset. The man and woman in the story agree that the man will have the first say in all decisions and the woman the second. For couples in today’s society the ideals that are established are more likely have something to do with religion, the number of children a couple wishes to have, or who should work in the family. The establishment of these principles will help couples to stay together longer and also be happier.

While the Old Man and Old Woman agreed, from the beginning, that the man should have first say and the woman the second, they both had equal input into decisions. When they were discussing the duty of tanning the hides, the man said "the women will have the duty . . . they will rub the animals’ brains on the hides to make them soft and scrape them with scraping tools. All this they will do very quickly, for it will not be hard work" (539). The woman did not completely agree with the man’s ideas about how this should be done. The woman suggested, "they must tan hides in the way you say; but it must be very hard work, so that good workers may be found out" (539). The Old Man and Old Woman used compromise in making this decision. While the woman had the final say, she did agree to part of the man’s original idea, while also adding some input of her own.

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Couples today need to learn this important skill: compromise. It has become a lost art today. People have become stubborn and single-minded and want only to have their own way. Being in a relationship is not, however, about getting one’s own way. Two people must be satisfied with the outcome of all decisions, so these decisions cannot be made selfishly. Today’s society still has some remnants of the old ideal that one sex, generally the male, should be superior to the other in a relationship. This idea, besides being sexist, is outdated. Men and women should be equal in a relationship. The idea of compromise should be applied to all aspects of a relationship, not just decisions, as was the example in "Old Man and Old Woman." Housework should be shared equally by couples, as well as shopping, child care, and any other household duties. But this problem is not wholly to be blamed on men. Women expect to work outside of the home, while continuing to do most of the work inside the home. Both partners should set an agreement to how all chores, including money making, should be divided.

The final guideline I see in Chewing Blackbone’s myth is that when you know your convictions are right and true you should not give in to the demands of your partner. There are situations where compromise has no place. One such situation in "Old Man and Old Woman" was when the old woman asks to allow their child to live again, after they had already established that people should die. The old man knew that the original decision they had agreed to was right and just. They decided that people should die forever because "if they did not, they would not feel sorry for each other, and there would be no sympathy in the world" ( 539).

As I have demonstrated, "Old Man and Old Woman" has many life lessons for couples. More people should be considerate of each other and learn relationship skills, if they truly want to be happy in marriage, and in life. Couples should apply the concepts named in this paper, and demonstrated in the story, to their own relationships. Only when people are truly willing to work at their relationship will the divorce rate go down. Then people will know the true meaning of "marital bliss."

Work Cited

Blackbones, Chewing. "Old Man and Old Woman." The Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 538-539.


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