On Catching the Train by A.G. Gardiner
In On Catching the Train by A.G. Gardiner we have the theme of uncertainty, control, reason, identity, confidence and anxiety. Taken from his Pebbles on the Shore collection the reader realises after reading the essay that Gardiner may be exploring the theme of uncertainty. Gardiner unlike others does not have any faith in the punctuality of trains or any faith in those who work for the railway. He imagines (or projects) troubles in his mind that are unrealistic and more importantly he knows himself that they are unrealistic. However the thoughts still manage to take control of Gardiner and leave him anxious when it comes to the simple matter of catching a train. Though there may come a time when Gardiner may be late for a train or too early he has not had the dissatisfaction of missing one. Some critics might suggest that this is because Gardiner is prepared. However it is more likely that those who operate the railway are sufficiently talented enough to ensure the punctuality of the train. True there may be delays or cancellations but to date none have affected Gardiner. Yet he still remains anxious when it comes to catching a train.
It is as though Gardiner is being unreasonable but at the same time considering himself to be reasonable. He expects others to let him down when he has no evidence that they will. His mind races to the worst possible scenario, of missing a train, and yet he has not done so. It is also noticeable that any anxiety that Gardiner may feel when it comes to missing a train is alleviated once he is on board. It is as though he has regained control over his senses and can take the opportunity to do what he likes doing best. Which is to write. The fact that Gardiner admits to using a pen name is also interesting as he believes that by doing so he can say what he really wants to say without being hindered by the possibility of being challenged. Though this may be true. There will always be some who know the real identity of those who choose to use a pen name when it comes to writing. One’s identity cannot be fully hidden from society even if a pen name is used. Eventually the reader (and others) will discover the writer’s true identity.
Gardiner also takes the benefit of using a pen name that one step further. Something that the reader notices when Gardiner is climbing and being called Saunders by his companion. Gardiner because his companion is calling him by the wrong name is able to disassociate himself from his own limitations or the perceived limits that his companion has of him as Saunders. This in itself is a nice trick and confidence booster for an individual. Though like a pen name it may eventually no longer serve the desired effect with a person eventually realizing that there is no difference between themselves and the name that they have chosen to give themselves. Where originally a person might use a pen name to avoid criticism or have that little bit more freedom to express themselves. A time will come when this is no longer possible. The problem or solution to any problems encountered will always rest with the individual regardless of their name. Gardiner’s companion on the mountains could have called Gardiner some other name and the situation would have been the same. Gardiner would still remain an inept climber.
In reality Gardiner knows the benefits of using a pen name or of catching a train. His one true love is satisfied. Once on board the train Gardiner is able to escape into his writing and for the time being forget the problems that may come with life. However the problem lies with when Gardiner has to actually catch the train. He is not as confident. Yet he is confident when it comes to writing under a pen name. The reader is also left with the impression that the habits that Gardiner has acquired when it comes to worrying about the train will not lessen. He will continue to worry and be anxious about catching a train. Even if he himself knows that he is powerless to do anything about it. The change that needs to occur is within Gardiner and not with those with a responsibility for operating the trains. If anything Gardiner needs to follow the lead of others who are mentioned in the story and be calm with regard to catching the train. His mind may tell him that he should worry about it yet others mentioned in the story do not have the same problems as Gardiner.