Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Most of the story is told dramatically; its events are presented as if picked up by a camera and a microphone, with relatively little narrative intervention. Only occasionally the connotations of words—such as the negative ones describing the train—suggest interpretation. Two passages are important exceptions to the dramatic point of view: Twice the reader is allowed glimpses into the wife’s thoughts and feelings. In the first passage, the reader discovers that the wife does not buy the lion only because she already has many such memorabilia from her trip. Her thoughts also suggest that she is unsure about her feelings for her new husband. In the second passage, the reader discovers a discrepancy between how the husband and wife think and what they value. The implication of the husband and wife’s failure to understand what the other feels about the carved lion suggests that these two people have different values and may therefore be incompatible. The wife finds the lion a wonderful piece of art but does not buy it because, after buying so many other pieces already, she feels that this purchase—not necessarily its price—would be extravagant. The husband believes that she would like the lion at a lower price and does not mind haggling with the vendor for a bargain. The wife is disturbed at her husband’s actions. For her, the beauty of the lion is lost at the price of what she views as the humiliation of the vendor. As she is filled with shame at her...

(The entire section is 451 words.)

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Legal Separation of the Races
When Gordimer published "The Train from Rhodesia" in 1952, South African society was legally...

(The entire section is 533 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

"The Train from Rhodesia" begins and ends with the symbol of the train. Gordimer structures her story around this...

(The entire section is 541 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1950s: Black South Africans cannot vote, represent themselves in government, or live in the same areas as white South Africans.


(The entire section is 164 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

How would "The Train from Rhodesia" be different if told from the perspective of the old man? The young man?

Investigate how...

(The entire section is 78 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

A Guest of Honor (1990) by Nadine Gordimer. An idealistic colonel's discovery of corruption among the leaders of a newly independent...

(The entire section is 252 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Chingman, Stephen R. The Novels of Nadine Gordimer History from the Inside, Allen & Unwin, 1988.


(The entire section is 309 words.)