The Train from Rhodesia

by Nadine Gordimer

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Student Question

What does the lion incident in "The Train from Rhodesia" reveal about the couple's relationship?

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The two characters in Nadine Gordimer’s story seem to look at life quite differently. They have not been married long and are still getting used to spending time together.

Even though they are on vacation, their contrasting approaches to the world are conveyed through an apparently minor incident such as purchasing a souvenir. The young wife seems more interested in obtaining items that will remind her of the experience, as she has already purchased a number of carvings. At the same time, she seems aware of the social cost of purchasing items from people who are presumably the artisans themselves or their direct representatives. She trusts that they have set prices they consider will fairly compensate them for their time, materials, and expertise.

The husband seems less interested in the societies and cultures with which they have been in contact. He also wants to make his wife happy. To him, obtaining the animal at a bargain price was a positive action. He had not understood that the wife’s reservation about purchasing it was not related to the price but to its role in her souvenir collection.

This misunderstanding between them seems to indicate that they do not know each other very well. The reader may infer that they are likely to have future quarrels about similar topics.

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