The Train from Rhodesia

by Nadine Gordimer

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Student Question

Who awaits the westward train in "The Train from Rhodesia" and what is their response upon its arrival?

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As we might expect, the stationmaster is waiting for the train from the west. As soon as he sees the train coming down the track, he emerges from his little brick station, feeling the creases in his serge uniform. His barefoot children also make their way to the track, followed by chickens and dogs. But most of all, the imminent arrival of the train stirs the excitement of the squatting vendors who sit in the dust, eagerly anticipating the opportunity to hawk their wares to the train passengers.

One of these vendors tries to sell a beautiful carved lion to a lady on board the train. She'd really like to have it, but unfortunately thinks it's a bit too expensive. Just as the train's about to leave the station, however, the young woman's husband enters the compartment, laughing merrily as he proudly brandishes the lion she wanted. But the lady's not happy when she finds out that her new husband paid the vendor a lot less than he originally wanted. Though the couple are newly-married, it's clear that a discordant note has been sounded in their marital relationship, the inevitable consequence of two mutually-incompatible value systems.

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