Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The devastating forces unleashed on these expatriate protagonists constitute a powerful argument to remain securely within the folds of one’s own culture. Yet the lure of freedom and justice, along with the incessant siren song of the global media American films figure prominently in each of the stories make expatriation as irresistible to the discontented of the world as are the sandwiches thrown by tourists in the epilogue to the Egyptian desert children.

Once a character separates himself from his native land, his destruction is inescapable. The new culture changes him so that he is emotionally unable to return to the old, and at the same time he is alienated from his fellow expatriates; even Dayo and his beloved brother are set against each other. When, instead of life-giving freedom, the expatriate finds deadening anonymity, the initiative that led him to seek a new life degenerates into anomie.

In the first two stories, which are narrated in the first person, the narrator describes his own surrender. Santosh says, “I had never been free. I had been abandoned. I was like nothing. I had made myself nothing. And I couldn’t go back.” The narrator of “Tell Me Who to Kill” says, “My life finish.” “In a Free State” is narrated in the third person, and Bobby’s defeat is rendered dramatically when the president’s soldier crushes Bobby’s wrist beneath his boot and “. . . he could have cried then at the clear pure pain,...

(The entire section is 491 words.)