Study Guide

The Far and the Near

by Thomas Wolfe

The Far and the Near Summary

Summary

Wolfe’s ‘‘The Far and the Near’’ starts out with a description of a little town, which contains a small cottage on its outskirts. The cottage appears clean and comfortable. Every day, just after two o’clock in the afternoon, an express train passes by the house. For more than twenty years, the train engineer blows his whistle, prompting a woman inside the house to come out on her porch and wave to him. Over this time, the woman’s little girl grows up, and she joins her mother in waving to the engineer. The engineer grows old during this time and sees a lot of tragedy during his service for the railroad, including four fatal accidents on the tracks in front of him. Throughout all of this tragedy, however, he remains focused on the vision of the cottage and the two women, an image that he thinks is beautiful and unchangeable. He has a father’s love towards the two women and, after so many thousands of trips past their cottage, feels that he knows the women’s lives completely.

As a result, he resolves to visit the women on the day he retires, to tell them what a profound effect they have had on his life. When that day comes, he walks from the train station into the small town. As he walks through the town, he is unsure of his decision, because the town seems so unfamiliar— much different from how it has looked from his train cab. When he gets to the women’s cottage, he is even more unsure, but he decides to go through with it. When he...

(The entire section is 414 words.)