Life consists of many things, both good and bad. Loss is an inevitable part of life, which most people experience at some point. To some people, the loss of someone dear, causes an epiphany, or a reminder, of that life is fragile and that no one is immortal. In the story “The Hurt Man” (2003) by Wendell Berry, we hear about a young boy, named Mat, who in an early point of life experiences that there is no such thing as immortality, which to him comes as an epiphany. “The Hurt Man” is told by a third person omniscient narrator.
The point of view is changing during the story. The reader experiences the events in the story both from Mat and Nancy’s point of view. The changing point of view does that the reader is not left with one interpretation of the events. Furthermore, the narrator uses predictions and omens in the story: “Nancy Beechum Feltner was not a frightened woman, as her son would learn. ” (l. 38). That helps create excitement for the reader and the reader expects an ending that relieves the excitement and explains the omens.
Mat Feltner is a five-year-old boy living in the Town of Port Welling. He is a curious and active boy, like most other boys his age. He is the last born in a group of 4 children. His older siblings have all passed away, and his parents see him as “a blessing”. Due to his young age, Mat does not has much life experience and do not know much about life yet. His mother, on the other hand, has a great deal of life experience due to the fact that she has lost 3 children and gives birth to Mat in a late age: “Mat had come late into the lives of Nancy and Ben Feltner. (l. 26). She always wears black to maintain her sorrows with loyalty but is still described as a woman of practical good sense and strong cheerfulness. In spite of the loss of her children, she is not a frightened woman.
She is very overprotecting when it comes to Mat but she knows that she cannot protect him from all the dangers in life: “ She knew that the world was risky and that she must risk her surviving child to it as she had risked the others. ” (ll. 40-42). The Town of Port Welling where Mat lives with his parents is described as a own full of danger and with a graveyard even more populous than the town. One of the symbols in the text is the road in the town: “At one end of the town was the school, at the other the graveyard. ” (ll. 12-13). That symbolizes a human life from cradle to grave, in this case, Mat’s life. On Saturdays there were usually lots of people in the town, which involved lots of drinking and that often ended in fights. On a Saturday afternoon in 1888, a big fight breaks out and a hurt man escapes from the crowd, bloody and wounded.
The hurt man runs towards them and seeks help within Mat’s mother. Mat does not feel scared in the situation, and finds it natural that his mother pushes him inside the house. However, he becomes surprised by the fact that his mother lets the hurt man run into their house: “He was surprised now but not afraid. ” (l. 69). Mat watches his mother taking care of the hurt man, talking to him as if he were a child: “You’re going to be all right. ” (l. 110).
At first Mat watches his mother taking care of the hurt man, from the top of the stairs, seeing his mother acting like he knew she would do: “He saw her as he had known her: a woman who did what the world put before her to do. ” (ll. 113-114). After having observed the event from the stairs, he moves closer towards them, and he sees his mothers face full of pity, which surprises him: It was pity, but it was more than that. It was a hurt love that seemed to include entirely the hurt man. ” (ll. 118-119). He sees her push everything aside to focus on the hurt man.
He was familiar with her tenderness, but has never thought nothing of it and now, in this situation, he sees his mother as if she is mourning over the whole hurt world. The look on her face surprises him, and that is when he experiences an epiphany: “What he saw in her face would remain with him forever. ” (l. 118). He realizes something that he probably should not have realized for several years due to his young age: “It was the knowledge of that encouragement, of what it had cost her, of what it would cost her and would cost him, that then finally came to Mat, and he fled away and wept. (ll. 136-137). Mat is not old enough to fully understand death and its consequences, but in this moment he understands. He understands that his mother’s grief over her children were real and that the children have once been alive, like everybody else buried in the graveyard. He now understands that death is an inevitable part of life, a harsh reality for a boy of the age of 5.
This event turns out to affect Mat’s life in the future: “But from that day, whatever happened, there was a knowledge in Mat that was unsurprised and at last comforted, until he was old, until he was gone. (ll. 144-145). The title of the story “The Hurt Man” is referring to the man that made Mat has his epiphany, but it can also be interpreted, as a picture of all the hurt men in the world and then Nancy becomes a picture of the universal female helper: “To him, then, it was as though she leaned in the black of her mourning over the whole hurt world itself, touching its wounds with her tenderness, in her sorrow. ” (ll. 124-126)
In this text Mat experiences an epiphany, which turns out to affect the rest of his life. Due to his young age, he has never really thought much about the fact that his parents have had tree children before him. When he watches his mothers face, full of pity and agony, he suddenly understands what grief she has inside. The fact that death will come to him, and everyone else, is now a part of life, he understands. He will loose loved ones and one day he will loose himself.