Tension infuses the story. Christine is perfectly placed to reflect this because she is connected to two people on this journey, whereas even in the group of opera attendees, nobody knows each other very well. So she is aware of the tensions in her trio, as well as those she observes in strangers nearby.
Everywhere, she sees more conflict, more tension. “As for the three men – Herbert, the conductor, and the Norwegian – something about the scene on the road had set them off dreaming; the look on their faces was identical. Christine could not quite put a name to it.”
In time, she does put a name to it: “To be truthful, said Christine to herself, all three of them seem to be thinking of rape.”
There are a lot of observations in this story, a lot of characters to observe. One might be scarred from having tried to escape beneath a barbed wire fence. One might be apologetic for having spoken too authoritatively. And most of the scenes can be imagined easily, thanks to Mavis Gallant’s careful descriptions. ‘
But the way that Christine names this look on the men’s faces: “thinking of rape”. It says more about Christine than it does about the men, but I find myself preoccupied by this image. I wonder how the other travellers might have described those faces.
Which is, I suppose, the point. That each of us is travelling. That we adjust our itineraries countless times, sometimes in company and sometimes alone. That we tell stories, to ourselves and to others, about how much choice we have and lack as we move in all directions. Most directions.
Note: This is part of a series of posts on Mavis Gallant’s stories, as I read through her short fiction. This is the first story in The Pegnitz Junction. Please feel free to check the schedule and join in, for the series, or for a single story; I would love the company. Next story, next week: “The Old Friends”.