Graham Greene

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What does a stone stage mean? "The cargo ship lay right outside the Mersey in the Irish Sea; a cold January wind blew across the tender; people sat crammed together below deck saying good-bye, bored, embarassed and bonhomous, like parents at a rail station the first day of term, while England slipped away from the port-hole, a stone stage, a tarred side, a slap of grey water against the glass." Hello, everyone. A quick background of this essay is that the author is about to leave England for Africa in the 1930s. I have a trouble understanding the meaning of a stone stage. I can tell that the ship is departing from England, and the site seen from the port-hole is getting smaller and smaller. But what is a stone stage, and why does England slip away from a stone stage? Your help is appreciated. Thank you. Shin  

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A "tarred side" would refer to the side of a ship. Many times, ships were tarred to insure that they would not leak.

A "grey slap of water" simply refers to the water hitting against the side of the ship. The tar could force a sound that would sound like a slap given the tar forms a sort of skin over the wood.

Your reference to the Dark Continent could be true given interpretation is based upon a reader's understanding or justifications made.

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The text in question comes from Graham Greene's novel A Journey Without Maps. As stated, the ship slips away from England: "England slipped away from the port-hole, a stone stage, a tarred side, a slap of grey water against the glass."

Here, one can surely see the movement of the ship away from the port of England given the imagery associated with England slipping away from the port-hole. (The port-hole is a window upon the ship and as the ship moves away from England it would look as if England was "slipping" away--getting smaller.)

The stone stage, though, is far more thought provoking. Historically, a stone stage was used during periods of time where plays were performed outside upon slabs of rock. These slabs of rock were either natural or placed. The stone stage was then used to perform upon.

Here, the stone stage refers to England. It is used as a synonym for the country. One could justify this based upon the hard and set ways of the country. When set in opposition against the unknowns of Africa, one could assume that the stone stage (the living in England) is very different from how living will be in Africa. Africa is unknown to the travellers upon the ship. Its history, for them, has not been set in stone.

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