In Flight Patterns the protagonist William, from the very beginning of the story, faces internal conflict within himself about his family and work. He spends very little time with them but he also has to do his work. Before he leaves for his business trip his wife pleads with him to stay and though his desire is to stay, he cannot. She urges him by saying “Oh, the plane will be filled with other salesman. Let some other salesman sell what you’re selling,” (Alexie 38). Despite her attempts to make him stay, Will says goodbye to his family and leaves home. In many of Sherman Alexie’s stories he talks about the struggles of many contemporary Native American families (Peterson 65). Fekadu, his taxi driver, starts telling him his life story and how he cannot see his family. William realizes that he has a lot in common with the cab driver. Devastated by Fekadu’s story, William is quickly drawn to the idea that he too may lose his family one day because he gave the impression that planes were evil, also the impression if he left he would leave his family in harm’s way and he also made him realize that work was taking too much of his family time and that is why he cancels his entire business trip to stay home with his family.
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First, William decides to not go on the plane because Fekadu has made a negative impression of planes in his sub conscience. Neither William nor Fekadu understand it but Fekadu’s story is subliminally telling him that going on the plane is a bad idea. In Flight Patterns planes represent a one way ticket away from home. “I [Fekadu] kissed my wife and sons good-bye that morning, and I kissed my mother and fatherâ€¦.. I went to the base, got into my plane, and flew away” (Alexie 48). William’s daughter planted the seed to think that going on the plane is bad because she thought terrorist would hijack the plane and then Fekadu watered it by telling him he had to kill hundreds of people because he was part of the air-force. Fekadu also tells him how he had to leave his country, family, and all his possessions behind and take his plane and fly to France (Alexie 49). Even though William is an active traveler, he has a bad image imprinted in his mind about planes. Fekadu is feeding him dark thoughts and that is shaping his mind to not go on his flight. He is giving him the feeling of loss since he lost his family because of a plane and William might lose his too.
Second, William did not go on the plane because he heard how Fekadu could not defend his family and from that he concluded that leaving his family would also leave them in harm’s way. Fekadu stated, “I could only pray Selassie would leave them be. He had always been good to me, but he says me as impulsive, so I hoped he would know my family had nothing to do with my flight.” (Alexie 49) Haile Selassie was an Emperor of Ethiopia.(Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia). When Fekadu was telling him that he would drop bombs over cities and kill many people, William had a vision of his “wife and daughter huddling terrified in the basement”.(Alexie 48) He is upset because he is not there to protect and be with them if they were ever in that situation. He could not forgive himself if anything bad happens to them. The only way for him to be there in times of need is if he quits his job. William feels worse when Fekadu tells him of how he was not there to defend his family. “Fekadu left his wife and sons 30 years earlier when he defected from Selassie’s dictatorship by flying his military plane to France, where he received asylum. He’s never seen them again” (Wadsworth 1). The only way for him to be there for them in times of need is if he is with them and separated by work and this leads him to not go on the plane.
Finally William decided not to go on the plane because work was taking too much time away from his family. Work is the reason why William never gets to see his family. Work is the reason why Fekadu had to leave his family. “He hated to leave but he loved his job,” (Alexie 39). At the beginning of the story William was upset because he travels a lot and never spends time with his wife and daughter and after Fekadu told him his story Will’s foundation was shaken. Fekadu told him that because of the work he used to have; he can now never see his wife and children (Alexie 49). William fears the same thing might happen to him. Fekadu’s story dealt with how he lost his family and had to deal with consequences of his work; William felt the same way too. He has a hard time believing what Fekadu has to say but he does not want to deal with what the person he was describing had to go through and so he decided not to go on his business trip.
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In conclusion William could not go through with his business trip because he was devastated by Fekadu’s life story. He used him as an example and learned from him and his relationship with his family. He realized that flight represented distance from family and if he was distant he might lose them. William could not go through with his plans because he realized that if he is far away from the all the time he would never be able to protect them when they need his help. He also canceled his trip because work took time away from his family. Since Fekadu’s relationship with his family was ruined because of his work William took it as a lesson to put his family before his job. “By the end of their journey to the airport, the men have found common cause, laughed together and understood each other. And William has found the resolve to follow his heart,” (Wadsworth). William decided not to go because his heart and mind did not want to leave and after hearing Fekadu’s story William was encouraged to not leave his family behind. As a result he cancels his business trip and stays home with the family.
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