Both of the stories ‘The train from Rhodesia’ and ‘Leela’s Friend’ illustrate divisions of classes and some of them result in conflicts. ‘The train from Rhodesia’ is in an allegory form to convey the deep hatred of the author towards her racially divided home country – apartheid. ‘Leela’s Friend’ shows the class division by demonstrating the prejudice that people have on those who are low in hierarchy. ‘The train from Rhodesia’ is about a train from Rhodesia ‘calling’ into the station with all the white passengers on it and there are the vendors who crowd round the train trying to sell their wares.
The train is personified by using verbs such as ‘creaking, jerking, jostling, gasping’ and saying it has ‘a dwindling body behind it’. This emphasizes the classes divisions between the rich passengers on the train and the poor sellers in the station. The poverty of black people seems to be the reason for division. The ‘creases’ in stationmaster’s uniform and his ‘barefoot children’ all give the impression of scarcity in the people inside the station. However, the girl on the train was ‘throwing’ a ‘hard kind’ chocolate to the dogs.
This use of antithesis here accentuates the division – not only in class – but also in poverty. There is also contrast of the attitudes and feelings of the young man and the young woman. The twist of story at the end is that the young woman’s rejection of the lion carving which her husband has bought for her and which she obviously admires. The man is ‘arguing with him for fun’ while the woman’s face is ‘drawn up, wryly, like the face of a discomforted child’.
The use of oxymoron in the epiphany of the woman and the shocked man here show another division due to the different views and opinions upon the way of treating poor black people. Gordimer describes the people and the setting in the third-person but does show us the young woman’s point of view on several occasions. For instance, in line 168-169 there is no subject ‘she’ in the description of shame upon her. This emphasizes the guilty among some white people about the exploitation of the country and also made the reader feel empathetic towards the young woman.
The ‘majestic’ and ‘heraldic’ lion was ‘fallen on its side in the corner’ lead the main theme of the story – the richer and privileged white European arrive and exploit South Africa’s labour and move on, they are never really part of the country as the train symbolizes. The central narrative question in ‘Leela’s Friend’ is ‘Did Sidda steal the gold chain? ‘ He is been prejudiced by Mr. and Mrs. Sivasanker for the missing chain of Leela just because he is the only one servant of the house.
The story circles around the sense of hierarchy and honesty and directness of children. The sense of level is shown in the beginning of the story while ‘Mr Sivsanker was standing in the front veranda of his house. ‘ Also, verbs such as ‘send’ and ‘keep’ imply a pet imagery of Sidda and this highlights the class divisions among the servant and his master. Narayan use an irony in positioning him in the house: ‘she made him squat on the floor’. Even a 5-year-old child can decide to have Sidda stay and ‘command’ him to do whatever you want.
This imagery is more symbolized in line 79 and 80 where Leela is represented as ‘little princess’ while Sidda is described as her ‘pet’. ‘He looked at her mutely, like an animal. ‘ This pet imagery is used by Narayan throughout the story. The golden chain, the running away, not permitting to sleep in the house all accentuate his level and hierarchy comparing to the owner of the house. He is prejudged as he is ‘already looked queer’ when Mrs Sivasanker knows that the chain is missing. Even he has been proved that he has not taken the chain; Mr Sivasanker still calls him a ‘criminal’.
All these ironies of prejudice show that the class division within this community and all the cause of this is that Sidda is in a position of servant and therefore loses his right. Both of the stories accentuate the unfairness and injustice upon the weak class as the result of class division and their poverty. ‘The train from Rhodesia’ uses the woman’s point of view and her epiphany to make the reader feel sympathetic towards the vendor. ‘Leela’s Friend’ uses the pet imagery to emphasize the idea of classes and prejudice on poors.
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