Short Stories From Different Cultures
Opening Worlds “Short Stories From Different Cultures” All 12 stories can be examined for in English Literature Paper 2. This booklet covers the first six stories (‘Dead Men’s Path’ to ‘The Tall Woman and Her Short Husband). The second group of six stories (‘The Pieces of Silver’ to ‘The Winter Oak’) is used in Paper 2 of the English exam as well as the Literature exam. These are covered in a separate booklet. Questions can be about character, theme or culture.
You also need to be able to say how the language the author uses adds to the reader’s understanding of character, theme etc, or how it adds to the overall enjoyment of the story, so you will be finding and explaining quotations. Questions always focus on two stories so it is useful to know some of the links between stories so you can see which ones are likely to be paired.
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The ‘Connections’ heading will help you here. You will have a choice of three questions. The first is always a context question, which prints an extract for you to focus on.
Other questions may allow you to choose which stories you answer on. You will have a copy of Opening Worlds in the exam, but it will not be your own annotated copy; you will therefore need to get to know the stories well beforehand. Dead Men’s Path by Chinua Achebe Plot: Dead Men’s Path begins with Michael Obi being appointed Head Master of Ndume Central School. He wanted the school to be progressive and modern; he scorned traditional cultural beliefs. Mr Obi saw an old woman hobbling in the hedges and noticed that there was a path running through the school.
He decided to ignore the cultural history of the path and cover it with fences and barbed wire. The village priest visited the Mr Obi to discuss the closure of the path; he said the closure of the path would prevent spirits entering and leaving the village. The priest asked Mr Obi to reopen the path to prevent quarrels. Mr Obi refused the proposal and said that the path was ‘against our regulations’. He suggested they build a new path that skirted the premises. A woman died in the village in childbirth and the villagers were angry that the closure of the path had angered their ancestors.
They ransacked the school and tore down the fences and flowerbeds surrounding the path. An inspector came to the school and criticised Obi’s handling of the situation. Characters: Michael Obi is the main character in the story. While he has positive qualities like being well educated, young and enthusiastic, his arrogance, unwillingness to listen and refusal to compromise are his downfall. He believes that just because ideas are modern they are right and he laughs at and insults anything that he sees as old fashioned.
In the end, this makes him look stupid; the story starts with him saying ‘what a grand opportunity we’ve got at last to show these people how a school should be run’ (43/44) and ends with the report which describes the tribal war situation developing between the school and the village, arising in part from the misguided zeal of the new headmaster’ (112/114). ‘Young and energetic’ (5), ‘many wonderful ideas’ (6), ‘with enthusiasm’ (6), sound secondary school education’ (7/8) ‘He was outspoken in his condemnation of the narrow views of these older and often less-educated (teachers).
’ (10/11) ‘His passion for modern methods’ (17) ‘The whole purpose of this school is to eradicate just such beliefs … Our duty is to teach your children to laugh at such ideas’ (90/91). Obi’s wife shares his beliefs. She is a shallow person, more interested in showing off her status and impressing other people than making their lives better. ‘She began to see herself already as the admired wife of the young headmaster, the queen of the school. The wives of the other teachers would envy her position. She would set the fashion in everything…’ (19-23)
The village priest represents tradition and good sense. He is polite, reasonable and offers a compromise so that everyone can get along together, everything that Obi is not. ‘What you say may be true, but we follow the practices of our fathers’ (94/95) ‘What I always say is: let the hawk perch and let the eagle perch’ (96/97) Themes: The story is mainly about the clash between the modern and traditional ways of life, two different cultures, with Obi representing the modern and the village priest the traditional.
Seen in this way, the story seems to support the traditional way of life, as it is more tolerant and seems to want to help and support people. The story is also about education. As Obi presents it, the school is there to destroy what people believe and replace it with what he thinks they should believe. The author, by making Obi fail at the end of the story, obviously does not believe this to be right – education is there to support and help people, not to criicise and destroy.
This last point leads to another theme – the abuse of power or authority. As a headmaster, Obi has the trust of the community; children are society’s most valuable possession. His job is to support and serve the villagers, but because he is so arrogant and believes himself to be better educated, he thinks he knows what these people need and imposes it on them, which is why they rebel. He shows no respect for the beliefs of others (‘Our duty is to teach your children to laugh at such ideas’), in fact he is very insulting. Connections:
Education and teachers: Mr Chase in The Pieces of Silver; Anna Vasilevna in The Winter Oak; Neo in Snapshots of a Wedding Abuse of Power: The Deputy District Officer in The Gold-Legged Frog; the Tailor’s wife in The Tall Woman; Mr Chase in The Pieces of Silver; the Police Inspector in Leela’s Friend Conflict between traditional and modern: Neo in Snapshots of a Wedding; Jing-mei and her mother in Two Kinds. Pride: Neo in Snapshots of a Wedding; the young man in Train From Rhodesia; Mr Chase in The Pieces of Silver; Ravi in Games at Twilight Snapshots of a Wedding by Bessie Head
Plot: Snapshots of a Wedding is about a man called Kegoletile and two women, Neo and Mathata. They form a love triangle. Both women are pregnant but Kegoletile chooses Neo over Mathata because she is educated and therefore likely to earn more money. Neo is disliked by most of the people around her because she is arrogant and opinionated. Mathata, on the other hand, is a pleasant girl who is well-liked. An aunt, who can’t stand Neo’s behaviour any more, tells her how unpopular she is. This shocks Neo into trying to be more agreeable, so that she doesn’t lose her husband to Mathata.
After the wedding, Kegoletile’s mother says to Neo “Be a good wife”. Characters: Neo, the bride, is the main character. She is an unpopular figure in the village – people feel her modern education makes her feel superior to others and she is spoiled by her mother. She gets a shock in the middle of the story when she realizes that Mathata, a girl that her future husband has made pregnant is a possible rival to her, and this causes her to try to behave more acceptably. ‘She was an impossible girl with haughty, arrogant ways.
Of all her family and relatives, she was the only one who had completed her ‘O’ Levels and she never failed to rub in this fact. ’ (37-39) ‘(The shock) wiped the superior smile off her face and brought her down a little. She developed an anxiety to greet people and also an anxiety about securing Kegolitile as a husband. That was why she became pregnant…’(112-115) Kegoletile is the man that Neo will marry. He is rich and seems nice enough – a good catch for a young woman. Although he prefers Mathata, he decides to marry Neo as she will be a money earner – perhaps a wife isn’t as important to him as the status money will bring.
‘He had about him an engaging humility and eagerness to help and please that made him loved and respected by all who knew him’ (90/91) ‘He knew what he was marrying…a new kind of girl with false postures and aquired, grand-madame ways. And yet, it didn’t pay a man these days to look too closely into his heart. They all wanted as wives, women who were big money earners and they were so ruthless about it! ’ (84-88) Mathata is a very pleasant young woman, but he social status is much lower that the others. She is independent and practical, telling Kegoletile not to bother bringing her expensive dresses as she can’t wear them.
She represents the poorer members of society; not as well off in terms of money, but a lot happier in themselves. She was a very pretty girl with black eyes like stars; she was always smiling and happy; immediately and always her own natural self. (82/83) For Mathata, he (Kegoletile) agreed to a court order to pay a maintenance of R10. 00 a month until the child was twenty years old. Mathata merely smiled too. Girls like her offered no resistance to the approaches of men; when they lost them, they just let things ride. (64-68) Themes:
The story centres on the arrogance of Neo and how pride could have led to a fall. Her way of thinking that an education made her superior to others makes Neo an unpopular figure, and shows that an education on its own does not necessarily improve a person; Mathata is uneducated but is a much nicer and more popular figure. The power of the family is also important. They are all involved in the preparations for the wedding and ceremony itself. It is one of Neo’s relatives that tells her what people think. Although she didn’t like what she heard, Neo believed the aunt and changed her behaviour as a result.
The story ends with the aunt telling Neo to be a good wife – perhaps with the support of her family, she can be. There is also the idea of a conflict between traditional and modern. The bride and groom want a modern wedding, but there is a suggestion that they are ill-matched and the marriage will not be successful. It is the traditional role of the aunts that provides the opportunity for success, so maybe there is a case for keeping the traditional qualities of the marriage process. Connections: Education and teachers: Mr Chase in The Pieces of Silver; Anna Vasilevna in
The Winter Oak; Michael Obi in Dead Men’s Path Conflict between traditional and modern: Jing-mei and her mother in Two Kinds; Obi and the priest in Dead Men’s Path Couples: Cathy and Naraian in The Young Couple; The Tall Woman and her Short Husband; the couple in Train From Rhodesia Family: Jing Mei’s family in Two Kinds; Bolan’s family in The Red Ball; the Dovecots in The Pieces of Silver; Naraian’s family in The Young Couple; Leela’s family in Leela’s Friend; Ravi’s family in Games at Twilight The Train from Rhodesia by Nadine Gordimer Plot: A train pulls up at a remote African station.
Local people wander over in curiosity, selling goods and trying to get money from the people on the train. A newly married woman sees a wooden lion and admires its splendour and beauty. She does not buy it, however. She has a flashback of the first few weeks of married life. It seems that she does not know her husband particularly well. The train pulls off, and slowly crawls along the track. The woman’s husband dashes into her cabin and waves the lion in her face. He has bought it despite her wishes for him not to. They start arguing about the cost of the lion; she believes its worth more.
He does not understand that she handed the loin back to the vendor out of respect for its beauty and can’t understand why she is so angry that he got it so cheaply. Their lack of understanding suggests that this marriage won’t work. Characters: The young woman on the train is at the centre of the story; the reader is told her thoughts and feelings. She is quite a sensitive person, admiring the beauty of the carved lion and appreciating the skill that went into making it. She seems to be unhappy with herself and her life; she suffers a feeling of emptiness that she thought was to do with being single and lonely.
Her recent marriage doesn’t seem real to her, just part of the holiday experience. She feels powerless and frustrated. The end of the story suggests that marriage was a mistake. Of all the whites in the story, she alone has a conscience, feeling shame at the way the black artist is treated by her new husband. Her feelings suggest that the whites have little culture or spiritual happiness in their lives; they are empty people unlike the blacks who seem full of life. If you wanted the thing, she said, her voice rising and breaking with the shrill impotence of anger, why didn’t you buy it in the first place?
If you wanted it, why didn’t you pay for it? Why didn’t you take it decently, when he offered it? (151-154) The heat of shame mounted through her legs and body and sounded in her ears like the sound of sand pouring…She sat there, sick. A weariness, a tastlessness, the discovery of a void made her hands slacken their grip, atrophy emptily…She was feeling like this again…(171-178) Her husband, the young man, is a shallow figure in the story. He perhaps represents the majority of white men who don’t care about the native population and who happily take advantage of them.
He is not a particularly sensitive person; he doesn’t appreciate the carving or understand his new wife’s frustration. He has little in the way of integrity or soul. ‘The young man swung in from the corridor, breathless. He was shaking his head with laughter and triumph’ (134/135) ‘He laughed. I was arguing with him for fun, bargaining’ ‘He was shocked by the dismay of her face’ (148/149) ‘He stood astonished, his hands hanging at his sides’ ( 158) The carved lion, although not a human, is still a powerful figure in the story. It symbolises the culture of the local black population, powerful, dignified, fearless, proud.
‘Between its vandyke teeth, in the mouth opened in an endless roar too terrible to be heard, it had a black tongue…round the neck of the thing, a piece of fur; a real mane, majestic, telling you somehow that the artist had delight in the lion’ (36-41) Themes: An obvious theme in the story is the difference between rich and poor. The whites live very comfortably; they drink beer and eat chocolate. The smell of their cooking food tortures the starving dogs. The locals, however, have no luxuries. The children go barefoot, dried meat hangs from the roofs, dogs and chickens have ‘their skin stretched like parchment over their bones’.
This situation is reversed in terms of culture; the black artists produce work that celebrates their heritage and the landscape and wildlife around them, they laugh and joke, showing signs of enjoying life – despite their poverty they are rich in life. The whites seem poor in culture. They don’t seem particularly happy with each other or themselves, they are cut off and isolated from the real world, being behind glass on the train, the flower meant to be decorating the window is dead. For all their money, they are poor in spirit. Connections:
Poverty: Nak in The Gold-Legged Frog; the Dovecot family in The Pieces of Silver; Bolan’s family in The Red Ball Isolation: The couple in The Tall Woman; Bolan in The Red Ball; Cathy in The Young Couple; Ravi in Games at Twilight Couples: Cathy and Naraian in The Young Couple; The Tall Woman and her Short Husband; Neo and Kegoletile in Snapshots of a Wedding The Gold-Legged Frog by Khamsing Srinawk Plot: The Gold-Legged Frog begins with a man sitting against a tree trunk in the blazing heat of a large expanse of land. We learn that this is Nak Na-ngam, making his way back to his village.
In flashback, we learn the events of the day: Nak’s son was bitten by a snake while hunting for frogs. Nak was forced to leave his dangerously ill son due because the government was handing out money to families with five or more children. If he didn’t go, not only would he lose the money, but apparently might be jailed too. While collecting the money, he was made to wait and then humiliated by the government officials there. Nak gets up from the tree to cover the remaining distance to the village. He meets a group of neighbours who tell him he is lucky. Nak’s hopes are raised; he thinks his son has survived.
What they mean is that he was lucky to get the money; if he’d waited he wouldn’t have got the 200 baht as his son has died. Characters: Nak is clearly a loving and committed father. He finds it extremely difficult to make the decision about whether to go to the district office whilst his boy is in such a perilous situation. Only the threat of jail if he doesn’t go, which would put the rest of his family at risk, decides him. He shows a proper respect for authority in keeping with his position at the bottom of the social scale, showing him to be decent, law-abiding family man. This makes what happens to him even more unfair.
As a good father he doesn’t deserve to lose his son; as a decent citizen, he doesn’t deserve the abuse he gets from the deputy district officer. He seems used to his hard life, though, when he thinks, ‘All you do is suffer if you’re born a rice farmer and a subject. You’re poor and helpless, your mouth gets stained from eating roots when the rice has run out, you’re at the end of your tether and you turn to the authorities only to be put down. ’ (103-106) ‘”I won’t go”’ he yelled. “My kid can’t breathe and you tell me to go…It’s true I’ve never had two hundred baht since I was born, but I’m not going.
I am not going. ” ‘(72-75) The deputy district officer is the story’s other main character. He is described as having a ‘fat face’, suggesting that, unlike Nak, he has plenty to eat. Rather than being helpful to the needy peasants, he is rude and uncaring. ‘The deputy district officer raised his fat face to stare at him for a moment, then spoke heavily. “Idiot, don’t you have eyes to see people are working. Get out! Get out and wait outside. ”’ Themes: Poverty is perhaps the main theme of the story. Nak is so poor that his family is forced to hunt frogs, snails and clams to survive.
When his son is bitten, he does not forget to take the frogs he has found with him – food is too important to abandon even in these circumstances. Back at the village, there is no question of finding a doctor and anti-venom; he must rely on faith healers and folk remedies, with little success. His lack of money means he has little importance in society and the deputy district officer treats him with little respect. There is evidence of luck and misfortune in the story. The first piece of luck is when the children find the large Gold-Legged frog, which then turns to bad luck when the snake bites the young boy.
Another incident of luck and misfortune is when Nak collects his 200 Baht, against the contrasting with the devastating misfortune of Nak learning that his son has died. The theme of family is also present. Nak is a caring father who is horrified when his son is bitten and is later devastated when his son dies. His instincts as a father are to stay with his boy and it takes some serious persuasion, threats really, to get him to leave. Finally, the deputy district officer abuses his power. As a public servant, his job is to help, support and guide the people living in his area.
Instead he abuses them and treats them as if they were nothing. Connections: Poverty: Nak in The Gold-Legged Frog; the Dovecot family in The Pieces of Silver; Bolan’s family in The Red Ball Family: Neo’s family in Snapshots of a Wedding; Jing Mei’s family in Two Kinds; Bolan’s family in The Red Ball; the Dovecots in The Pieces of Silver; Naraian’s family in The Young Couple; Leela’s family in Leela’s Friend; Ravi’s family in Games at Twilight Conflict between traditional and modern: Neo in Snapshots of a Wedding; Jing-Mei and her mother in Two Kinds; Michael Obi and the priest in Dead Men’s Path
Two Kinds by Amy Tan Plot: Jing-mei’s mother, an immigrant from China, believes in the American Dream, that anyone can become what they want with some talent and a lot of hard work. The mother had left everything, including her family, behind in China and wanted only the best for her remaining daughter. After some false starts, and resistance on the part of the daughter, it is decided that Jing-mei would become a famous pianist. When the lessons start, however, the girl quickly becomes bored and finds shortcuts, partly made possible by having a deaf piano teacher.
When she has to play in public for the first time she is awful and embarrasses her parents in front of friends and neighbours. After this humiliation, her mother is strangely silent. A major row soon follows, however, when Jing-mei refuses to play the piano again. Her mother insists on having a dutiful Chinese daughter but Jing-mei, in her anger, shouts that she wishes she didn’t have her mother, that she wished she’d never been born. This causes her mother to back away, shocked. This difficult relationship lasted until the mother died. When clearing out her mother’s clothes, Jing-mei finds and keeps some old Chinese silk dresses.
She also finds the sheet music that she had failed to play years before. She realizes that the song is in two halves ‘Pleading Child’ and ‘Perfectly Contended’, and realizes there is a message in this about her own life; perhaps the two halves of the song represent two aspects of her personality. Characters: Jing-Mei, as her mother calls her, is in many ways a typical western teenager. Whereas, in China, a daughter would be expected to be obedient, she wants to be more independent, make her own decisions and go her own way, to escape the control of her parents.
This perhaps reflects the fact that she has grown up in America where children can expect more freedom, but this desire to be independent and escape the control of parents is typically adolescent. She is half way between childhood and adulthood. While she wants to be famous, like any child would, she lacks confidence in herself, but more importantly, she does not realize that success comes only with practice and hard work. Childishly, she takes shortcuts and as a result makes a fool of herself. At the end of the story, as an adult, Jing-Mei understands her mother better.
She realizes that, old fashioned and heavy handed as she may have been, her mother had her best interests at heart, not wanting her daughter to cruise along and become lost in obscurity but to stand out and make the best of her opportunities. She also feels more comfortable with her Chinese heritage, shown by the fact that she holds onto the silk dresses. Perhaps these are also a reminder of her mother. ‘In the beginning I was just as excited as my mother, maybe even more so’ (36) ‘In all of my imaginings, I was filled with a sense that I would soon become perfect. My mother and father would adore me.
I would be beyong reproach. ’ (44-46) ‘And after seeing my mother’s\disappointed face once again, something inside me began to die’ (77/78) ‘The girl staring back at me was angry, powerful. This girl and I were the same. I had new thoughts, willful thoughts, or rather thoughts filled with won’ts. I won’t let her change me, I promised myself. I won’t be what I’m not’ (86-89) ‘And right then, I was determined to put a stop to her foolish pride’ (217) ‘My mother’s expression was what devastated me: a quiet blank look that said she had lost everything’ (292/293) ‘No accusations.
No blame. And in a way, I felt disappointed. I had been waiting for her to start shouting, so I could shout back and cry and blame her for all my misery (300-303) ‘For unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be. I could only be me’ (353/354) The mother in this story holds onto the life style and culture that she knew in China – it is hard for ‘an old dog to learn new tricks’. She slaps and nags her daughter which seems old fashioned. She does want Jing-Mei to do well, though, and to have the life and opportunities that she never had.
She makes sacrifices for her daughter, doing extra cleaning jobs to afford the piano and lessons and has already made the considerable sacrifice of leaving her first family back in China, an unhappiness she hides most of the time but which is dragged to the surface during their final row – her response suggests that she is as human as anyone else. She wants to be proud of her daughter and her success, and if there is a little showing off competition going on with Auntie Lindo, it just shows that the mother is just as human as the rest of us.
‘America was where my all mother’s hopes lay. She had come here in 1949 after losing everything in China: her mother and father, her family home, her first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls. But she never looked back with regret. There were so many ways for things to get better’ (9-13) ‘Just like you’ she said. ‘Not the best. Because you are not trying. ’ (129) ‘My mother had traded housecleaning services for weekly lessons and a piano for me to practice on every day’ (139/140) ‘Only two kinds of daughters,’ she shouted in Chinese.
‘Those who are obedient and those who want to follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter! ’ (332-334) Themes: The story examines the relationship between mother and daughter. There is both love and conflict as the daughter grows up in a different culture to that of her mother. Both sides have their faults and their strengths, but the story reflects the struggle that growing up, and being a parent, can be.
The story is told from the child’s perspective; we get to know her thoughts and feelings, see things from her point of view. Having said this, the mother is described in some detail – we get a good impression of her response to major events like the rows and the concert. The mother is the dominant figure in the story. We see and hear relatively little of Jing-Mei’s father. This would be normal for the Chinese community, where men would take the main responsibility for working and the women for running the household. Connections:
Conflict between traditional and modern: Neo and her aunt in Snapshots of a Wedding; Obi and the priest in Dead Men’s Path Family: Neo’s family in Snapshots of a Wedding; Bolan’s family in The Red Ball; the Dovecots in The Pieces of Silver; Naraian’s family in The Young Couple; Leela’s family in Leela’s Friend; Ravi’s family in Games at Twilight Experience of Childhood: Clement in The Pieces of Silver; Bolan in The Red Ball; Leela in Leela’s Friend; Ravi in Games at Twilight; Savushkin in The Winter Oak The Tall Woman and Her Short Husband by Feng Ji-cai Plot:
A Tall Woman and her Short Husband starts with some thoughts on the force of habit something, the writer suggests, that shouldn’t be underestimated. The unusual couple at the heart of this story is an object of ridicule for their neighbours. One neighbour in particular, the tailor’s wife, can’t leave them alone and would love to know how such an apparently mismatched couple got together; she thinks that the wife must be a gold-digger after her husband’s money and that he couldn’t find anyone that would marry him. The couple themselves, however, is happy enough to produce a child.
When the Cultural Revolution strikes China, the husband is suspected of anti-revolutionary behaviour. The couple is put through a kind of trial, although no-one can find any kind of evidence against them, despite the best efforts of the tailor’s wife. Mr Short is imprisoned and his wife continues to survive as best she can. Eventually he is released, but the year of solitary hardship had its effect on Mrs Tall who suffers a stroke. The community begins to realise that they were not freaks and try to be nicer to them.
Mr Short does all he can to help her, but he health fails and she dies soon afterwards. The story ends with Mr Short missing his wife, holding his umbrella high to protect her out of habit. Characters: Mr Short is described as ‘a rubber rolypoly’ (29). Although he is quite flat, he is full of life and energy. He is a devoted and caring husband; after his wife’s stroke he works hard to rehabilitate her. After her death he continues on alone. He loved his wife and no-one can replace her; ‘There is a big empty space under that umbrella, a vacuum that nothing on earth can fill.
’ (333/334) ‘Solid and radiant…His eyes were like two high-voltage little lightbulbs’ (29…33) Every morning and every evening Mr Short helped her twice round the yard, painfully and slowly. By hunching up his shoulders he was able to grip her crooked arm in both hands. It was hard for him, but he smiled to encourage her…This was a pathetic yet impressive sight, and the neighbours were touched by it. (297…303) Mrs Tall is described less flatteringly; ‘dried up and scrawny with a face like an unvarnished ping-pong bat.
’ (24/25) She seems to be the opposite of her husband in every respect; tall where he is short, thin where he is fat, dull where he is bright. The author does this to show that, although they don’t seem suited at all, their genuine love for each other makes physical differences irrelevant. She says nothing but understands a great deal, behaving with quiet dignity. Mrs Tall neither nodded nor shook her head. She had seen through the tailor’s wife, too. Her eyes glinted with derision and contempt. (206-208) The author makes these two quite distant characters.
They don’t say anything, either reported or direct, during the story and we learn little of their feelings. They are private, keeping themselves to themselves – probably they are used to being ridiculed and keep themselves apart to avoid it. The writer makes us view the couple from the same distance as their neighbours in the story; we are being invited to judge them on the same amount of information. Will we laugh at them or can we realize a loving, devoted couple? In this way, the story tests our own bias and prejudice.
The tailor’s wife, on the other hand, is an open and obvious character – most likely, we know someone like her ourselves. She is a gossip, nosing in and interfering with other peoples’ lives. She judges other people by her own low standards, which is why she can’t accept the fact that the couple loves each other and there is nothing more sinister than that going on. The writer often uses irony to describe her – what sounds like a compliment is really an insult If she was unclear about anything she would leave no stone unturned to get at the truth.
The thirst for knowledge makes even the ignorant wise. In this respect she was outstanding. (69-71) For some reason or other, ever since the sixties each housing estate had chosen someone like this as a “neighbourhood activist”, giving legal status to these nosy-parkers so that their officiousness could have full play. It seems the Creator will never waste any talent. (75-79) Themes: This is, at heart, a love story, describing a couple who stick together through thick and thin, who society has made outcasts but who have found belonging with each other.
The two forget about usual conventions in order to best suit themselves; Mrs Tall holds the umbrella, Mr Short picks up anything dropped. They are victims of bullying, both the casual variety of neighbours mocking them, but also of the organized force of the Cultural Revolution. They are publicly humiliated, shunned and Mr Short is beaten and imprisoned, all without good cause; as the Revolution dies down he is released and his confiscated belongings returned.
It would seem that their oddness makes them an obvious target. Connections: Abuse of Power: The Deputy District Officer in The Gold-Legged Frog; Michael Obi in Dead Men’s Path; Mr Chase in The Pieces of Silver; the Police Inspector in Leela’s Friend Couples: Cathy and Naraian in The Young Couple; Husband and wife in The Train From Rhodesia; Neo and Kegoletile in Snapshots of a Wedding Isolation: The young woman in The Train From Rhodesia; Bolan in The Red Ball; Cathy in The Young Couple; Ravi in Games at Twilight