Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Train from Rhodesia” deals with the contrast in the lives between the people on the train and those in the station and also between the young wife and husband. The passengers on the train represent those who have both leisure and money: The young wife on the train is on holiday; other passengers throw unwanted chocolate to dogs at the station, or sit in the dining car drinking beer. The people in the station represent the working poor: The vendors at the station squat “in the dust”; the stationmaster’s children are “barefoot.” The children and animals beg for handouts while the vendors nearly do so: “All up and down the length of the train in the dust the artists sprang, walking bent, like performing animals, the better to exhibit the fantasy held toward the faces on the train.”

The physical setting places the white passengers above the local inhabitants: They sit inside the comfortable train and reach down to throw scraps to the animals or to exchange money for the crafts being held up by the “gray-black” hands. The interior of the train suggests luxury, but also a lack of life; artificial flowers adorn tables in the dining car, and the wife, the only passenger whose internal feelings are revealed, feels a void in her life. The train station suggests poverty but also life and creativity; the land is poor and the animals are malnourished, but the crafts of the artisans are beautiful. The meeting between the passengers and the...

(The entire section is 498 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

In "The Train from Rhodesia," a train's short stop in a poor African village highlights the racial and class barriers that typify South...

(The entire section is 910 words.)