An unnamed English visitor to a South American country that seems to be Brazil unintentionally becomes involved in the lives of Stefan Woroszylski, a Polish laboratory assistant at a remote industrial development project, and Barbara, his English wife. Barbara insists on inflicting on her fellow Englishman the “emotional confusion” built up over two years in a strange country. In contrast, Stefan is relatively comfortable in Brazil because several Poles are there.
The daughter of an admiral, educated in a convent, Barbara desperately misses the active social life associated with her upper-middle-class background. Even with a husband, three children, and a fourth on the way, she is lonely in a place so different from that to which she has been accustomed, not only in Kensington but also in such places as Malta, Gibraltar, and Alexandria. “Perhaps I’m just not the pioneering type,” she explains to the narrator. Barbara does all she can to inform the narrator of her former status so that he will “perhaps, later, commiserate with her for her present circumstances.”
The narrator can sympathize with Barbara up to a point, especially when he accompanies Stefan on a hunt for wild dogs: “You can judge your distance from civilization by the state of the dogs: Tonight we were very far away.” This distance becomes even clearer when Stefan declines to finish off a dog he has wounded because of the expense of the extra bullet, explaining...
(The entire section is 538 words.)