Short stories, especially realistic ones, often convey powerful, realistic messages. Though often subtle, these insights are often the most important aspect of the story – insights into the human condition afforded through the interactions amongst the characters; in the best stories, the message is understated to avoid becoming ‘preachy’.
Nadine Gordimer’s “Is There Nowhere Else We Can Meet?” conveys great insight while avoiding moralizing. It is a story about a woman, who is likely white, who is mugged by a homeless “Native” man, and its message of racism is a bit different than usual: it discusses fear. “If the earth had opened in a fire at her feet, if a wild beast had opened its terrible mouth to receive her, she could not have been reduced to less than she was now” (373) is what goes inside the woman’s mind in the moment, and it is this level of fear that made her situation a living nightmare: that man, to her, was “the wolf in the forest,” or the “troll under the bridge” – a real life monster. But why is she so afraid? She states that she does not “fear the man” (373) in himself, but perhaps it is society, and having the woman live in a time of injustices that forces her to feel unnecessary fear.
“Is There Nowhere Else We Can Meet?” Is an interesting story, sometimes even a powerful one when it discusses real life monsters: not the man, and not even the woman – but the hatred that fills the air.
Gordimer, Nadine. Short fiction: An Anthology. Edited by Mark Levene and Rosemary Sullivan, Don Mills, Ont., Oxford University Press, 2003. pp 372-374