In The Journey to the West, Pilgrim and the woodcutter seem to be similar where they both feel that they have a purpose in life. However, their situations are different from one another. For instance, Pilgrim tries to better himself by seeking the immortals, as well as, gaining eternal youth. He is full of passion, desire, and excitement, which has lead him to have no worrisome thoughts. He has nothing holding him back from the tasks that he wishes to accomplish. Unlike the Pilgrim, the woodcutter continuously is concerned about his mother and how he is going to make enough money each day to take care of her.
The immortals even taught the woodcutter a poem that would help him to calm down because of his worrisome feelings. Pilgrim is someone that follows his curiosity to find newer and bigger things, while the woodcutter is merely a slave to his obligations of making a decent living. Due to his obligations, the woodcutter does not have any dreams for his future, and even if he did, he would never dare follow them. Pilgrim only cares about himself and the benefits that he will receive due to his journey to find the immortals.
The woodcutter is not as selfish or as motivated with what he wants to do with his life. Since the woodcutter was a child, he has taken on the responsibility of being an adult. Woodcutter approaches Pilgrim by saying, “when I was young, I was indebted to my parents’ nurture until I was eight or nine. As soon as I began to have some understanding of human affairs, my father unfortunately died, and my mother remained a widow. I had no brothers or sisters; so there was no alternative but for me alone to support and care for my mother. Now that my mother is growing old, all the more I dare not leave her” (Wu Cheng’en 433). Even after the woodcutter’s explanation, Pilgrim still asked him to come along on his journey with him to find the immortals.
Pilgrim does not have any concern or regard about the woodcutter’s problems and his responsibility to take care of his mother. According to Pilgrim’s actions, he continues to prove his selfishness while the woodcutter dedicates his life to taking care of someone other than himself and proving his unselfish ways. Pilgrim is the type of individual that will jump at any opportunity that comes his way. He takes every chance that has any possible potential for him to improve. Consequently, the woodcutter has an immortal neighbor and has no desire to learn anything from him. If Pilgrim had that opportunity, he would be grateful and take advantage of such a connection.
Pilgrim has to go on an arduous quest for what the woodcutter has in the palm of his hand. Overall the woodcutter does not think very highly of himself like Pilgrim does. Pilgrim calls him a “gentleman” and “honored brother,” while the woodcutter refers to himself as a “foolish fellow.” He lives a mundane life with no goals or ambitions. He is stuck in a rut, because of the duty to his mother to which he holds himself accountable. Pilgrim lives freely and open minded, unlike the woodcutter, but then again, Pilgrim has nothing restraining him.