The Other Side of the Hedge by E.M. Forster
In The Other Side of the Hedge by E.M. Forster we have the theme of acceptance, letting go, conflict and failure. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Forster may be exploring the theme of acceptance. The narrator does not accept the position he finds himself in. He has went through the hedge and is in a Utopian world in which some critics suggest is Heaven. However all the narrator wishes to do is to return to Earth and to continue walking. This may be significant as the walking could be symbolic of a person’s participation in life. The narrator may in fact long to return to Earth simply because he does not feel ready for the new world that he has entered. Though the reality is the narrator doesn’t have much say in the matter due to the restrictions imposed on him by the old man. If anything the narrator is in conflict with himself. Torn between Heaven and Earth. There is also an external conflict between the narrator and the old man who informs the narrator that he cannot go back as he wishes to do so.
What is also interesting about the story is the fact that the narrator doesn’t realise that he is in Heaven. He is so focused on returning to Earth and continuing with his walking that he is unable the embrace the beauty that is around him. If anything the narrator tries to distance himself from the other people in Heaven. Which may be the point that Forster is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that mankind is so focused on earthly things like goals and doesn’t realise just how futile chasing aspirations and goals may be. Though the narrator is driven by his desire to walk and succeed. He has forgotten about the things that are important in life. Family being an example. Particularly when the narrator passed his brother by on the road. He did not stay with his brother as one would expect a person to do. Rather the narrator was so driven that he choose to continue walking. It is as though the walking has become a competition for the narrator and he must win at all costs. There is also a sense that the narrator cannot let go of the life he is leading. Though he does not know what the prize may be the narrator still wants to keep walking.
Which may leave some readers to suggest that the narrator is blind to his actions. He has become uncaring towards others with the most important thing being to keep walking despite the narrator not knowing his final destination. Even when in Heaven the narrator can’t let go of Earth or the desire to keep walking. It is as though the narrator wants to be the best walker there is or that he wants to reach his goal before others do. While at the same time not taking anybody else into consideration. It is also possible that Forster is asking as to whether advancement of mankind is a necessity or where does it stop. In reality the narrator does not enjoy walking and it does eventually kill him. Yet he is adamant that he will succeed. However the reality is the walking or the road has gotten the better of the narrator. Something which the narrator either chooses to ignore or is totally unaware of. Rather than accepting that the old man is there to help him. The narrator wishes to escape as quickly as he can.
The end of the story is also interesting as it only becomes clear to the narrator that he is dead when he sees his brother. Prior to this the narrator had no understanding that he was in Heaven. It is only when the narrator realises that he is in Heaven that he accepts his circumstances. No longer does the road (or Earth) have the same pull on the narrator as it previously had. It is as though the narrator is no longer in conflict with either himself or the old man. Something that is symbolically noticeable when the narrator lies down and falls asleep. It is only then the narrator truly realises that his battle is over. That he has spent his life chasing goals which have only resulted in him dying. Which sums up how life may be for many people who forget to take time and slow down. The narrator has set himself an unrealistic goal in which he was not sure what the ends might be. In many ways the narrator has failed in his efforts though at the same time he does have the benefit of being reunited with his brother. Who by all means appears to be happy. Just like the narrator may be should he give Heaven some time.