Essays and Criticism
Critical Essay on Greyhound People
Adams’s narrator in ‘‘Greyhound People’’ goes through some trying experiences in this tale and comes out a renewed spirit; but in the process, she exposes a lot of her fears. She tries to name them, but one has to wonder if she is being honest with herself. Her reactions to her fears do not fit the names she attempts to put on them. Does she offer clues to what her real fears might be? And if so, are readers privilege to them? With a closer examination of the narration, can readers at least speculate what these underlying fears might be?
Adams begins her story with the narrator confessing that she ‘‘had a frightened sense of being in the wrong place.’’ Readers assume that this means that the narrator is on the wrong bus, since she is talking about catching a Greyhound bus from Sacramento to her home in San Francisco. She asks people in the bus station (fellow riders) if she is in the right line; but then she admits that these people more than likely did not really understand what she was asking. Note that she does not ask anyone who works at the bus station for directions but rather climbs aboard a bus, which she senses is the wrong one. Because of her ‘‘anxiety and fear,’’ she sits as closely as she can to the bus driver. Now it seems that a normal person would have asked more questions. She or he would not have gotten on a longdistance bus without knowing where it was going. If, out of awkwardness, the narrator had decided to take a chance on a particular bus, it seems reasonable to believe that she should have at least asked the passengers sitting around her on the bus, the people one could assume might be more aware of where this bus was going. But the narrator does not do this. She just sits there and hopes she has made the correct decision. Even when the bus driver enters the bus, she does not make the effort to find out the destination of this bus. So what is she really afraid of? Is she concerned the bus will not take her home? If she is, she does not mention this fact right away. Instead she makes observations about things that are happening around her. She mentions that a stranger asks her to give up her seat, and she explains her reaction to him. She also discusses the woman who insults a child with learning disabilities. Then the narrator goes through another whole range of emotions over this incident. It is not until the bus turns off the freeway and the bus driver announces that they are heading for the city of Vallejo that the narrator makes any comment at all about her destination. After the bus driver states that the next stops are Oakland and San Francisco, the narrator is relieved.
So what is the real fear in this incident. Is it a fear of getting lost? Of not being taken home? If it was, how could the narrator have gotten so casually involved in the people around her. She also has time to reflect on an incident that happened to her earlier that morning when a bus driver appeared to take two tickets from her instead of just one. During this same time, she also checks out the scenery, not necessarily looking to see where the bus is going but rather to enjoy the ‘‘very beautiful’’ hills, ‘‘a bright white farmhouse,’’ and ‘‘the dark shapes of live oaks.’’ She is describing a pleasing, relaxing pastoral scene—one of peace and tranquility. There was no mention of threatening black clouds on the horizon or gnarled, twisted branches, things that would suggest how the narrator was feeling if she was truly scared.
Rather it seems that the ‘‘frightened sense of being in the wrong place’’ that the narrator mentions at the beginning of the story is not a real fear— the kind of fear one might have when one’s life is threatened. What it really sounds like is excitement. She is in a ‘‘wrong place’’ in the sense that it is not the usual place that she finds herself in, day in and day out. It is a new place, one that is offering her new experiences. And one cannot help wondering if the narrator, in fact, put herself in that position on purpose. What else would explain how easily distracted she becomes with what is going on around her....
(The entire section is 1692 words.)