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The story I have decided to study is "The train from Rhodesia" The
author of this story is a South African woman named Nadine Gordimer.
She was born in Transvaal, just outside Johannesburg, in 1923 and
lived there with her Jewish father and her British mother. She
received a Nobel Prize for literature in 1991 and her first story was
published when she was just fourteen years old. She had only been
writing for five years as she started at the age of nine.
Nadine Gordimer is admired for her modern writing and became only the
eighth woman to win a Nobel Prize in its ninety-year history. She was
very critical of how the white European minority controlled the black
African people. Some of her writing reflects this and many of her
books were banned in her native land. Quotes in the author's
description give hints to what the story will involve.
"Her writing deals with the moral and psychological tensions of her
racially divided home country"
Because previous stories she has written have had similar themes. This
could mean this story could be the same.
The story is based around a young married couple that buy lots of
souvenirs on holiday in Rhodesia. A train arrives at a small station.
The young woman asks a beggar to show her a lion that he carved
himself. She takes a look at it, but doesn't buy it, as it is too
expensive. As the train slowly leaves, the beggar drops his price from
three-and-six to one-and-six.
The young man brought it and gave it to his wife. She wasn't happy and
wanted him to take it back because the beggar deserved more for it, if
you look and read more into the story, this could come across to the
young woman that the young man doesn't think she deserves something so
The structure of this story is simple as it is all in chronological
order, but sometimes the story gives hints of things that happened in
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traced back to the train.
"One-and-six, one-and-six, one-and-six,"
This could be said in a way which sounds like a train. There is no
resolution as the story ending is very similar to the beginning of the
story. Its like a spiral, there is some sense of progression, but we
still don't know there the story goes. Personification is used to
bring the train to life.
"There was a grunt. The train jerked"
This makes the reader feel as if the train is a person, or that maybe
it could be a symbol for a person, or the writer might have used
personification to give the train power. There are also links from the
train to symbolise a snake.
"The segmented body of the train heaved and bumped against itself"
If you replace the word "train" with "snake" you can see that both
sentences make sense and are a very good description for both. The
author repeats the snake image by saying,
"The train had cast the station like a skin"
This gives me an image of a snake shedding its skin, but could also be
a hidden message that as the white people go home on the train, their
time in Africa and African people are left behind and they are erased
from their memory because the white people don't need the Africans
The main characters are the young woman, the young man and the beggar.
The story doesn't tell us anything about these characters, not even
their names. Maybe because the write wanted the train to be the main
character, and by using personification, as she did, it could be
possible that this is what she tried to achieve. From the text, you
can see that the young man is very upper class, and looks down on the
less fortunate, like the beggar. But the young woman is very
down-to-earth and believes that although the beggar is poor, he
deserves all the same respect.
It doesn't tell us why the young couple were in Africa, but hints were
given to think that they had just got married and then went on a
"She was feeling like this again. She had thought it was something to
do with her singleness"
The train from Rhodesia is set in South Africa, the same place Nadine
Gordimer, the author, was born. The story is based around the train
and it explains the thoughts of people going on the train. People who
are returning to their homes from Rhodesia are unhappy that they have
to leave this false life they have been living.
"She sat down again in the corner and, her face slumped in her hands,
stared out of the window"
This gives the reader a sense of depression of the young woman, she is
upset that she has to go back to reality, maybe with a husband she
only married because she thought her life would change. But she was
" She was feeling like this again. She had thought it was something to
do with singleness, with being alone and belonging too much to
If she was to marry, she had the idea that it would give her a sense
of purpose. But when the young man disappointed her by refusing to buy
the young woman a carved lion at the price of three-and-six, so
instead he waited for the poor old man to drop the price of the
marvellous piece of work to one-and-six. She had the horrible feeling
of worthlessness that she had once felt before.
Nadine Gordimer of this story has repeated words for more enthusiasm
and also to create a rhythm as a symbol for the train. She has also
used personification to make the train appear to be a person.
"Creaking, jerking, jostling, gasping, the train filled the station"
This is personification because she is trying to make the train come
to life by saying that it gasps and jerks. The writer hides meanings
into her story that can relate back to African traditions and the
differences and disputes between the white people and Africans. If you
read between the lines you realise that the author has made the train
look like a character. By using personification and also using words
that can mean the train is looking for something. Such as,
She also makes out that nobody is answering the trains calls, and that
the train needs help, or maybe it's the people on the train that need
help, or are not being answered, as they want to keep the false and
happy life they have been living in Africa, instead of facing their
problems and miserable lives back at home.
"I'm coming . . . I'm coming . . ."
I chose to write about "The Train From Rhodesia" because I like the
way the author included hidden meanings and messages about Africans
and the white people. Her beliefs and experience from growing up in
South Africa has reflected in her writing. I like her use of
personification towards the train and I also like the way she makes
the characters feelings clear even though she has not explained it in
great detail. She gives you the option of having your own story ending
by not telling you the whole story, so you make parts of it up