Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “Crossing into Poland” one may note at least three of the important themes to be developed in full detail throughout Red Cavalry. The first of these is disapproval of war—conveyed in this story through disturbing imagery and the gruesome description of a victim of war. One might conclude that the author is in fact a pacifist but that he declines to voice that view explicitly on the grounds that subtlety and understatement will have a greater effect on the reader.

However, the author also must have felt some ambivalence toward the Polish campaign, as a communist and as a supporter of the Russian Revolution. Hence, there may be discerned in the stories a tentative (perhaps merely ironic) effort to seek justification for the sacrificial victims of the war. (Note that the old man may be seen specifically as a sacrifice because his throat has been cut, as in Jewish ritual slaughter of animals.) This second theme in “Crossing into Poland” occurs as little more than a suggestion, as the narrator, in describing the mess spread out over the floor of the Jews’ house, refers to the “fragments of the occult crockery the Jews use only once a year, at Eastertime.” This one reference to “Eastertime” (in Russian, “Passover” is also indicated, as the word for Easter and Passover is the same, Paskha) implicitly evokes the sacrifice of Jesus, with whom the old man, in retrospect, becomes tentatively associated. (One may think of him as a sheep or lamb offered to...

(The entire section is 610 words.)