Dead Mans Path and The Train from Rhodesia essay
Chinua Achebe sets us up to be surprised from the start of the story as at the beginning he builds it up to be a story of success, line 14 ‘We shall make a good job of it, shan’t we?’ This phrase suggests that Michael Obi is a very energetic man and this gives us as the reader the expectations that he will be determined to succeed and this is what the author has made us to believe at the beginning. Line 30 ‘They will give all their time and energy to the school,’ this phrase shows us further evidence that Michael Obi is determined to succeed even if he hurts others e.g. the teaching staff of the school.
The Train from Rhodesia by Nadine Gordimer sets us up to be surprised from the start of the story as at the beginning she builds the story up by a big description of the setting of this story to give us a clear picture of the scenery, line 1 ‘The train came out of the red horizon and bore down towards them over the single track.’ Also in this phrase the author has used a specific adjective to describe the train, ‘red’ and this shows us that Nadine Gordimer is trying to paint us a clear picture of what is going on. They way the author describes the train gives us the expression that the train is coming in for its last journey as a tragedy is about to happen, line 26 ‘Creaking, jerking, jostling, gasping, the train filled the station.’ This phrase suggests that the train is approaching the station for the last time and the adjectives ‘Creaking’ and ‘gasping’ creates us a better picture as they emphasise how the train came into the station.
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Both stories have surprising endings to the way the stories begin. Chinua Achebe ends his story in a disaster as all of Michael Obi’s hard work comes to ruins because he clashes with traditions of the village while he has his own methods to succeed. Unlike the priest, the headmaster of Ndume Central School, Michael Obi, is not a likeable character. He is both narrow-minded and foolish. His comments such as ‘We cannot allow people to make a highway of our school compound’ and ‘The hole purpose of our school is to eradicate just such beliefs as that. Dead men do not require footpath … our duty is to teach your children to laugh at such ideas’ point to his narrow-minded ways. Furthermore, his lack of respect for his elders or authority figures and his careless choice of words, namely ‘I don’t suppose the ancestors will find the little detour too burdensome’, which offend other people’s deeply held beliefs and values are hallmarks of a disrespectful, immature and unwise person.
As between an open-minded and wise person and one who is not, it is obvious that the former will prevail over the latter. Open-mindedness allows for breadth of knowledge and wisdom protects from foolish mistakes. Both attributes, taking together, provide for better behaviour. In the end, Michael pays for his ignorance. His approach is shown to fail. He gets a nasty report on the state of his premises, the very report he so ardently tried to avoid.
If Michael Obi had he been open to the spiritual comments of the learned priest, the ancestors would not have been ‘insulted by the fence’, the young woman might not have died, the beautiful hedges might not have been trampled to death and one of the school buildings might not have been pulled down. In brief, had Michael been more like the priest, he would have received the exemplary report he so desperately wanted.
Nadine Gordimer ends The Train from Rhodesia in a way to the expectations that she gives us from the beginning of the story as at the end of the story the woman who wanted the lion at the start but rejects it when the man buys it for her. We get the expectation that the woman wanted the lion by the way Nadine Gordimer describes the lion ‘It was a lion, carved out of soft dry wood…with impressionistic detail burnt in’ line 33-35. We are surprised from this ending, which shows us that the woman cared for the hard work, which the man has done in making the lion and she feels that it would be like robbing the man who made the lion if they did not offer the right price for the lion. Nadine Gordimer shows this at the ending in line 166 to line 170 ‘She sat down in the corner…the teeth’, this shows how she was feeling as she was so anger she sat in the corner staring out of the window as if she was depressed and I think the creates a good picture as we can see everything was turning inside her as she did not agree with what her husband had done.
The surprise endings of both the stories still did not my enjoyment but increased it further as I wanted to find out how these stories were to end. Dead Mans Path has an ending that I wanted to read because I wanted to find out if Michael Obi would succeed in his attempt to improve the school and his battle between modern and tradition society. In The Train from Rhodesia I wanted to carry on reading as the enjoyment was in the surprise in this story as we think the woman would of loved her husband saving money on something she really had her heart set on but she goes the opposite way and dislikes him which I find a very effective way to keep the readers interested.
The style that Chinua Achebe writes the story is very impressive as he uses very positive words to describe what Michael Obi wants to do i.e. pivotal, denigration, eradicate etc. The phrase used in line 96 by the priest ‘let the hawk perch and let the eagle perch’ is a very good phrase as it gives us as the reader more suspense by what is happening as the priest has given an ultimatum to Michael Obi and they had had a stand off. The style in which Nadine Gordimer writes the story is very different to the way Chinua Achebe writes as she writes more descriptive than a lot of speech. This way is very effective, as she has created a very clear picture in our head of the train in the setting. She uses a lot of adjectives to describe movement and the lion. ‘The heat of shame mounted through her legs and body and sounded in her ears like the sound of sand pouring’ line 172-174 this simile is very effective as she shows that the woman is very depressed and is feeling shamed and this gives a very good image of a woman upset.
In conclusion these two stories are very different in the terms of style, setting, language and characters. The think that they had in common was a surprising ending which drew the reader into the stories to keep reading on. In Dead Mans Path the ending is very effective because by the battle of tradition against modern society. The ability of the writer to create an effective ending as this shows us that he had thought of the ending hard when the priest said problems would arise if he did not stop. The Train From Rhodesia keeps us in suspense by the clear picture created by the reader and this is very good as we can picture very thing that happens. Overall I say that the two stories are well written in keeping suspense and the different style in which the stories are written.
By Tajinder Ghattaora 11c