A Fellow Traveller by A.G. Gardiner
In A Fellow Traveller by A.G. Gardiner we have the theme of uncertainty, freedom, control, generosity, appearance, equality and modesty. Taken from his Leaves in the Wind collection the reader realises from the beginning of the essay that Gardiner may be exploring the theme of uncertainty. Gardiner is unsure of when the mosquito came into the train carriage. He does not know if the mosquito arrived before him or after him. Though he does become aware of his presence and at first is irritated that the mosquito is flying around the carriage. What is also interesting is that Gardiner speaks of the freedom one feels when in a train carriage yet he does not at first afford the mosquito the same freedom. It is only after Gardiner realises that he cannot control the mosquito that modesty and generosity occurs. Shown by way of Gardiner refusing to kill the mosquito. This may be important as there is a sense that Gardiner has admitted defeat when it comes to killing the mosquito. It is only then that Gardiner shows the mosquito any magnanimity or generosity. What is also interesting about the story is the fact that prior to noticing the mosquito, Gardiner does not take advantage of the freedom he has and which he mentions is available to him. It is possible that Gardiner is suggesting that man himself gets too busy in life to take advantage of freedom or to reflect on the simple things in life. Like availing of the opportunity to explore the benefits of having a train carriage to oneself.
Rather Gardiner allows for himself to be disturbed sufficiently by the mosquito that he tries his very best to kill the mosquito. It is as though the mosquito has infringed on Gardiner’s personal space and Gardiner does not like it nor will he permit it till he admits defeat. The fact that one of the articles in the newspaper that Gardiner is reading is called ‘Peace Traps’ may also have some symbolic significance as Gardiner has declared peace with the mosquito yet he knows that he has the perfect opportunity to kill it. The other article in the paper ‘The Modesty of Mr. Hughes’ is also symbolic as Gardiner himself is being modest when he admits defeat with the mosquito. Rather than embarrassing himself Gardiner gives the mosquito a type of equality. The two passengers are equals and as such Gardiner will not kill the mosquito. Though some critics might suggest that Gardiner has in some way humanized the mosquito it may simply be a case that Gardiner is not only modest enough to admit defeat but that he is also displaying the ability to be compassionate towards another living creature.
It is also interesting that Gardiner after he admits defeat shifts from a position of viewing the mosquito as an adversary to a fellow companion or traveller. There is a complete one eighty in Gardiner’s appraisal of the mosquito and no longer is the mosquito viewed as being something that is troublesome. This may be important as Gardiner could be suggesting that first appearances may not necessarily always be correct. Just as one may judge an individual based upon their appearance and be wrong so too has Gardiner misjudged the mosquito. If anything Gardiner could be using the mosquito as symbolism for another human passenger and how when in a confined space (the train carriage) an individual might strike up a conversation with one person but perhaps due to appearance refrain from doing so with another.
Not only has Gardiner admitted defeat when it comes to the mosquito’s presence but he has also allowed for the carriage to remain under the control of the mosquito. If anything the mosquito, unlike Gardiner, is allowed to take advantage of their environment and act to their own will. In reality the mosquito is able to express the freedom that Gardiner himself chose not to when he thought he was alone in the carriage. Which may be one of the morals of the essay. An individual should, when the opportunity arises, take full advantage of the freedom that they see in front of themselves. Perhaps to act as the mosquito does and remain free from obstruction or societal views. The result of doing so will be that an individual will be able to express themselves to their own liking without being hindered by the constraints that society may impose on the individual. It may be better to live free while one can for the opportunity may not present itself with regular frequency. Such are the chains that man allows himself to be hindered by when it comes to what society may think.