GCSE OCR engligh opening worlds- the train from Rhodesia

notes on the short story the train from Rhodesia

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The Train from Rhodesia by Nadine Gordimer
Opening Worlds No 3
This story seems to operate on a number of different levels.
It is a snapshot of some moments in time ­ as a train stops briefly at a `little
brick station'.
It emphasises the idea of segregation in many different ways.
It explores the feeling of guilt of a privileged white woman living in a racially
segregated society.
It exposes fundamental differences in the attitudes of the `newly weds'? ­ Not
all the whites are the same ­ hope in her guilt.
Poverty is emphasised through descriptive details: "the station master's barefoot
children" and "dogs with their skin stretched like parchment (SIMILE) over their
bones". There clearly isn't enough food or money available for the people in this
community to live comfortably.
The sound of the train: "I'm coming...I'm coming..." is almost like a promise (of
money to support the village). However, it turns out to be a shallow offering and
sounds almost mocking as it leaves the station. The sound also implies the
?(Self)? importance of the white travellers on the train.
The main part of the story allows us to see the bartering that goes on as the
natives try to sell various artworks to the travellers. This artwork has genuine
artistic value (it is not the equivalent of mass produced fake handbags) (Lines
33-41). (Europeans recognise these words ­ Van Dyke (a Dutch Master) ­
impressionistic - Heraldic ­ heraldry. All these words help a European reader
realise the artistic worth of the carvings)
Powerful imagery ­ The dogs sitting under the dining car feasting on an aroma
seems to be a striking image ­ again emphasising the idea of a false promise.
Noah's Ark:
The train is described in biblical terms ­ when the drinkers are viewed as sitting
"two-by-two". They are the privileged ones ­ looking out on those that must
struggle in order to survive.
There is almost something obscene in the `charity' of throwing unwanted
oranges and chocolates `no one liked' into the crowds and to the animals.
The woman feels in the end that there is also something fundamentally wrong in
the securing of the lion for `one and six' (about seven and a half pence). In the
process, the old man is made to chase the train and scramble in the dust for
coins (whose value does not tally with the artistic worth of the artwork and his
need). In short, he is humiliated. Some may say that the woman's guilt/anger is
misplaced as she made no effort to buy the lion whilst the train was at the station
"Too expensive, too much, she shook her head". Her guilt, however, seems

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­ Is there some hope for change
in this?
The lack of speech punctuation emphasises this as a brief passing moment in
time and allows us to `observe' the scene more freely.
Imagery ­ the train as a living, breathing thing ­ "the resting beast" ­ "the
train had cast the station like a skin".…read more


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