The story is about the slow death of an unnamed writer on a safari in Africa. His leg is rotting away due to gangrene caused by a scratch he got on a thorn in the bush. The trivial nature of the wound that proved fatal suggests one theme, that death...
The story is about the slow death of an unnamed writer on a safari in Africa. His leg is rotting away due to gangrene caused by a scratch he got on a thorn in the bush. The trivial nature of the wound that proved fatal suggests one theme, that death is omnipresent and never far away. Another main theme of the story is the opposite, focusing on the random events and feelings that make up life and how the specificity of these moments, trivial as they are, make them precious.
This takes several forms in the story. His relationship with his wife, for instance, is by turns affectionate and petulant; the writer quarrels with his wife out of pity for himself and his condition, and later, when they make up, their amiability is similarly shallow. The narrator describes their love affair as a kind of transaction: it was
all part of a regular progression in which she had built herself a new life and he had traded away what remained of his old life.
Now, in the bush, as he is dying in the care of this woman, he appreciates the improbability of this fate.
The italicized flashbacks that the writer experiences, in which he intensely remembers former moments from his life, are another example. These can be understood almost as a cliche—his life is flashing before his eyes! However, his memory of the fight he got into in Constantinople with a soldier over a girl stands out because of its detail. Similarly, his memory of how he had been thinking of an old lover, "the one who left him," and his sense that, while it was his "duty" to write of such things, now he never would, suggests that what is most precious to the writer is this lived experience, even if the "story of his life" makes no logical sense.