*Author’s note: These are being published to provide students with a fresh perspective on some frequently-studied works of American and British literature and relevant classic movies shown in progressive English literature classes. Feel free to play around with my point of view but please do not plagiarize in part or in whole. Consider my text a stepping stone and allow your thoughts to flourish in your own writing.
In the short stories, “Across the Bridge,” by Graham Greene and, “The Train From Rhodesia,” by Nadine Gordimer, the idea of man’s individuality in society is explored through setting, characters and through certain incidents within the text. Through these literary concepts, numerous themes can be found which apply to modern American society.
One theme generated in “Across the Bridge” is loss of freedom and dignity due to Mr. Calloway’s attempt to cheat society. In the story the reader eventually comes to realize that Calloway committed a crime in England. He basically cheated people out of large sums of money. Because of this he is extradited and decides to go to Mexico where they can’t kick him out and send him with the authorities back to England. This leads Calloway to total despair and loneliness, which ties into another theme in “Across the Bridge” which is the human capacity for self-deception.
When Calloway becomes depressed about his situation, he remembers the primary reason he got into this mess – money. He assumed that if he became rich he would lead a fulfilling and happy life. He quickly found this not to be the case.
The same concept happens every day in modern-day American society. Every day one hears of a millionaire who has either become corrupt or simply finds his/herself unhappy and wanting more out of life than just a fat bank book.
The themes in “The Train From Rhodesia” are slightly more complex; however, they too pertain to today’s society. One theme closely tied into “Across the Bridge” is the dilemma of belonging to the well-to-do white minority in an impoverished black nation. No matter where you are, whether it is South Africa as in “Train From Rhodesia” or in Mexico like “Across the Bridge,” money, or a lack thereof a major issue on people’s minds. Because of the fact that in South Africa, the white minority has all of the money, while the black citizens remain in poverty, it is difficult for the two groups of people to come together.
This is illustrated during the time when the husband is attempting to buy the native’s hand-made lion for his wife at a huge discount. He doesn’t appreciate the hard work the native put into the lion and even though he does end up buying it, he doesn’t give the man the pay he deserves. After the purchase, the husband feels great pride in the fact that he ripped off the man and even looks at it selfishly as a triumph instead of blatantly realizing the other man was ripped off.
The dilemma of trying to make connections with other people in a setting which makes it hard to do so is another theme that ties into this situation. The only one in the story who could possible connect would be his wife. She is a compassionate person who realized and appreciated the amount of work the native put into the lion.
There was also a problem with different regions connecting in “Across the Bridge”. None of the people would speak to Calloway because, “He was a man with a million – and it never occurred to Lucia…to treat him casually like a human being…” The townspeople knew the detectives were there looking for him, but they were too much in awe of him to utter a single word to him, another reason Calloway was in his depressed state – he had no one to talk to.
Disillusionment is the major malfunction in both “Across the Bridge” and “The Train from Rhodesia”. Too many people believe that money and being brought up in different regions is a good-enough excuse to keep people separated and to make the same people tense about confronting the people on the other side of the bridge.