Promenade by Henrietta Rose-Innes
In Promenade by Henrietta Rose-Innes we have the theme of connection, responsibility, guilt, mortality, loneliness and communication. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Rose-Innes may be exploring the theme of connection. Though the narrator does not know the boxer by name. He still feels a connection with him when he is jogging along that promenade. In fact that narrator who is exceptionally observant feels a connection with all those he sees as he is jogging along the promenade. Again he may not know their names but they in many ways have become part of his daily life. A life that appears to be filled with loneliness. The narrator works and jogs. Rose-Innes never mentions that the narrator may have friends and any time he is not jogging the narrator appears to be in his flat. It is also interesting that after sparring playfully with the boxer on several occasions that the narrator nor the boxer never introduce themselves to one another. It is as though there is no need for words and their actions act as a form of communication. Leaving the reader to suspect that a person can understand a lot from another person’s silence.
It may also be a case that the narrator is worried about his own health. He appears to be obsessed about his jogging. Doing so at the same time and on the same days of the week. Though there is nothing wrong with an individual trying to keep fit. There is a sense that the narrator may have seen his best days pass him by. Something that he is fully aware of. The interesting thing about the boxer’s death is the fact that in many ways the narrator may be blaming himself. If he had not been delayed he would have playfully sparred with the boxer and everything would have went as it normally went. Though this may be true it is not necessarily cast in stone. The narrator has no need to feel responsible for the boxer’s death though his actions after the boxer’s death highlight that the narrator holds himself responsible. His normal routine goes totally out of synchronization when he realises that the boxer is dead and by hitting the wall the reader suspects that the narrator is blaming himself for what has happened.
It is also possible that Rose-Innes is exploring the theme of mortality. Of the two men on the promenade one would expect it to be the narrator, because he is older, to die. However the boxer who is most likely half the narrator’s age and fitter than the narrator is the one who dies. This could be important as Rose-Innes may be suggesting that nobody actually knows when they are going to die and that life itself may not necessarily work out for some people. Though the narrator lives a less exciting life than the boxer. He still nonetheless is not the one who dies. He follows his daily routine even after the boxer has died. Which may also be important as it suggests that despite tragedies in life. Life goes on regardless of what may happen to an individual. Though the narrator is initially shocked about what has happened the boxer his routine does not change. He continues to jog along the promenade.
The fact that the narrator does not change his routine is also interesting. It is not as though he hasn’t been affected by the boxer’s death but he may also know that he has to continue his routine for that is all he appears to have in life. Though some critics might suggest that narrator is chasing his youth. It is more likely that he is attempting to act to the best of his ability. He knows he is no longer a young man and that in order to remain healthy he needs to exercise. It is just unfortunate for the narrator that the memory of the boxer dying and the narrator’s feeling that he played a part in it may ironically slow him down. It is also possible that in time the narrator will stop jogging due to how he may feel about the boxer. His only connection in the story (and it appears in his life) is no more. Jogging may no longer be a good enough substitute for the narrator. He is unhappy in his job but knows he needs to work and his jogging is tinged with sadness. A sadness that the narrator may be unable to let go of and which may change the direction of his life. All because the narrator feels a sense of responsibility over what happened the boxer. When the reality is that the narrator should not feel guilty.