The Train from Rhodesia: Symbolism

The Train from Rhodesia

What does the train symbolize in ‘The Train from Rhodesia’?

The Train from Rhodesia is a short story written from a third person perspective yet she is reflecting on her life in that given moment. The train symbolizes life and the tracks symbolize the path you are on. Courage and strength is symbolized by the lion. The Train from Rhodesia is a journey of the failure of self-realization. The woman realizes that her “wonderful” life isn’t so wonderful. She has money and a new husband that wants to make her happy and buy her what she wants. The woman wasn’t happy with her life and she thought that getting married would change her life path.

When they stopped at a train station on there way home there was this old black man trying to sell a wood carved lion that she wanted. The older black man who is selling the lion has a sense of ownership and dignity that he did such an amazing job on the lion that some one would pay a good price for it “and round the neck of the thing, a piece of fur (rat? rabbit? meerkat? ); a real mane, majestic, telling you some how that the artist had delight in the lion” (Gordimer,44). The woman tries to bargain with the old man and stops because he won’t lower his price.

The husband then bargains with the old man giving him a fraction of what he was asking for. She feels bad after she and her husband bought the lion for a lower price then what he was asking for. The old man feels happy that he got to sell the lion but the woman realizes that he deserved the money he was asking for. The women felt selfish because her husband didn’t give the old man the money he deserved. The old man was so proud of his work and he needed the money more then they did. Her young husband took control of the bargaining situation which made her feel partly responsible for his actions.

The lion “between its Vandyke teeth, in the mouth opened in an endless roar too terrible to be heard, it had a black tongue” (Gordimer,44). Her husband cheating an old black man out of his money all she can think about is how her husband is going to cheat her. “What will they mean from the place you found them? ” (Gordimer,45) in asking this question when she looks at her carvings she will remember the scene where she bought them because that is what a souvenir is. The lion’s black tongue evokes complex exchange and underlying threats of sex between blacks and whites.

The person who has the lion has the power and when the husband takes the lion for a fraction of what the old man wanted it for gives him the power; yet he makes it seem like the women is right and has the power when he is just being a guy and agreeing with her. He doesn’t even know what his wife is really talking about. The women analyses where her disturbed feelings are coming from in terms of the carving and what her marriage is built on. The short story, The Train from Rhodesia is a well written story about this young newlywed that is reflecting on her life in that given moment in time.

The train and the tracks is like a time machine into a world that they don’t see often because they are a wealthy white folk on a vacation. The life path that the woman is on is not where she wants to be. It’s not rewarding enough for her she thinks that this is all there is. She wants the train tracks to go in a different direction because she doesn’t like this everyday feeling. This woman doesn’t have enough courage to voice her feelings and thoughts which you would think so because of what happens at the train station. There ends the trip on The Train from Rhodesia which is a journey of the failure of self-realization.

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