Tomorrow Tamer

Pages: 5 (2189 words) Published: October 31, 2010
The story for which the Tomorrow-Tamer volume is named is an effective account of the devastating effects wrought in the life of an African village by the construction of a bridge. On a superficial level the bridge would seem to be a self-evident metaphor for the unification of opposites, a visible token of the "new song" to which Africa must dance if she wishes to progress, symbolizing the overcoming of all the existential and cultural barriers represented — as in This Side Jordan — by the river. The protagonist of the story, a young villager named Kofi, dimly recognizes the mediatory significance of the bridge from the beginning, realizing that when the project gets underway "strangers would come here to live" (80). This is exactly what happens, although at first there is no significant interaction between the two worlds that have been brought into proximity by the construction project:  The white men rarely showed their faces in the village, and the villagers rarely ventured into the strangers' camp, half a mile upriver. The two settlements were as separate as the river fish from the forest birds. They existed beside one another, but there was no communication between them. (90) The absence of drastic disruptions induces the villagers to believe that they can continue undisturbed in their old way of life, even as they bask in the new climate of prosperity that the bridge project makes possible. Even Kofi's existence continues for a while to adhere to the pattern defined by tradition:  When the hut was built ... his life would move in the known way. He would plant his crops and his children. Some of his crops would be spoiled by worm or weather; some of his children would die. He would grow old, and the young men would respect him. That was the way close to him as his own veins. (91) As the months pass, however, Kofi finds himself becoming increasingly estranged from his wife and family. Spending his leisure hours at a drinking establishment which has become the nexus between the two worlds, he is drawn more and more into the company of the members of the construction team, who owe no allegiance to place or person, and are ready to shift somewhere else when this project is completed. Sensing his growing alienation from his own people, Kofi attempts to anchor his identity even more firmly in the new reality, wanting more than anything else to be considered a "bridgeman" (97). At this point the paradox latent in the symbol of the bridge comes to the fore, as it becomes ironically manifest that the convergence of peoples and cultures that progress makes possible can only be achieved at the expense of that sense of community that knits the separate members of a tribe into a corporate whole. Identification with a group is superseded by identification with a function, as human relationships and the individual's sense of self are more and more exclusively mediated through the rationalized formulas of a technological civilization. For a while Kofi tries to reconcile the contending loyalties within himself by interpreting the power of the bridge in the animistic terms of his people, reasoning that it is possessed by a spirit and will require a priest of its own (99). "Shunned at home" for this blasphemy (100), and therefore cut even more adrift from the security of his own community, he commits himself wholeheartedly to the bridge and the more abstract order of unification that it represents. Catching a distant glimpse of the road that "would emerge soon here and would string both village and bridge as a single bead on its giant thread" (102), he makes the decision to become like the other workers, at home in all places and tethered to none. Ironically, however, just as he envisages the day when "in the far places, men would recognize him as a bridgeman" (102) he loses his footing on the bridge and plunges to his death in the river. The bridge that should symbolize the passage from the past to the present, from the old to the...
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