Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In his brief introduction to The Celestial Omnibus, and Other Stories (1947), E. M. Forster points out that each of the six stories in his collection are fantasies, meaning they are more far-fetched in plot and characterization than his novels usually are, even though both often deal with similar themes. This generalization about the stories holds especially true for “The Other Side of the Hedge,” a dreamlike parable that uses heavy-handed symbolism to condemn modern, mechanistic society.

As in Forster’s other fantasies in The Celestial Omnibus, and Other Stories, “The Other Side of the Hedge” exemplifies the value of a pastoral society in which men and women can ignore the pressures of a modern world. Unlike the other fantasies, this story is overtly allegorical and is to be read symbolically. The dusty road, for example, represents life; the reader should understand that when the narrator—who is anonymous because he is an Everyman—stops walking along this road he is contemplating suicide rather than continuing his monotonous trek. He has already dropped many of the tools of civilization but has kept his pedometer and his watch, obvious symbols for the mechanistic society in which he lives.

The narrator’s trip through the hedge and consequent immersion into the moat symbolize his physical rebirth into a new world, one in which neither his pedometer—which still reads “twenty-five” and thus suggests his age—nor...

(The entire section is 603 words.)