The Old Demon In the short story “The Old Demon” by Pearl S. Buck, Mrs. Wang is a practical person, who takes things at face value, does whatever she thinks must be done, and accepts her fate. Foremost, Mrs. Wang takes things at face value. Seeing things as they truly are, after rescuing a wounded soldier from a fallen plane, she learns from a crowd of Chinese soldiers that he is Japanese. Though fully acknowledging that he is the adversary, Mrs. Wang saves the young man from being stabbed. The Chinese soldiers’ query to her concern for the “Japanese monkey” results in Mrs.
Wang’s compelling response: “If he is dead, then there is no use in sending him into purgatory all in pieces” (Buck 159). Unlike the others, Mrs. Wang clearly distinguishes him not as just one of the Japanese, but rather as an injured man who needs help. She perceives things as they are, rescuing the young soldier from a painful death. Although he is Japanese, she sees him as she does everyone else, a human being in a time of great need. Additionally, Mrs. Wang does whatever she thinks must be done. For instance, as the silver planes crash headlong into the vast field, the villagers flee, striving to escape the burning catastrophe.
Though Little Pig’s wife pleads and implores her to run, Mrs. Wang seats herself against the bank of the dike and gazes at the extraordinary spectacle, replying “I haven’t run in seventy years, since before my feet were bound” (156). Stubborn, old Mrs. Wang refuses to leave and abandon her place, for she knows that she is slow and will only delay the others from escaping. Placing others before herself, she feels that “it is her duty” to stay behind (156). Acknowledging what is right, she puts others before herself, in spite of the fatal consequences that it holds. Lastly, Mrs. Wang accepts her fate.
Exemplifying acquiescence of her destiny, in the arrival of an army of Japanese soldiers, she understands that if they are not stopped, then they will kill all the villagers. As they march across the plain, the circumstances pose a difficult choice: her death or the death of the villagers. Mrs. Wang soon realizes that there “is an end to what one could see,” and this is the end for her. Knowing what she must do, she opens the water sluice and unleashes the wicked river, drowning both herself and the Japanese. Mrs. Wang sacrifices her life for the villagers, prepared for life and where it shall take her.