PEOPLE ON THE BRIDGE by Phaitoon Thanya
Pride Always Comes Before A Fall
The short story “People on the bridge” by Phaitoon Thanya generally reveals about the human nature. It is about a number of different characters that end up trying to cross a narrow bridge to fulfill their obligations but were obstructed by two bull keepers and their bulls who could not pass each other in the middle of the bridge. The story ended tragically with the deaths of the two bull keepers that were crashed onto each other by their bulls.
Literally, I find this story dealing with the egotistical behaviour of humans which is having too much pride in oneself. Pride is a behaviour that can result from two opposite connotations. From a positive connotation, pride is the credit that one gives to oneself for their accomplishments that raises one’s self-esteem. Whereas, from a negative connotation, pride means being fixed towards a decision or action and an inflated sense of one’s status or achievements that often leads to arrogance. From the story, the first bull keeper, feels proud of himself in being the caretaker of the red bull. His pride exceeds that of his master’s and this is highlighted by the narrator as him being only the bull keeper. Apart from that, the bull keeper feels proud whenever he and the young bull grabs the crowd’s attention in the market as they walk pass by to the point that it is indicated the bull keeper has a wishful thinking to be the bull’s owner.
While leading the red bull across the bridge, the first bull keeper was infuriated at the sight of another fighting bull being led by its keeper and felt insulted irrationally. This ego thus provoked an argument between them that led to an unresolved conflict. An interesting part in the story would be before the ending. The narrator, described the unconcious thoughts that were running through the bull keepers’ minds by saying that the heavy roars and the hot breaths of both bulls were like the signals from the Hindu god of death, Yama. At a point, I believe, the thoughts of Yama resulted from the unconcious sense of fear and guilt. Yama is the god of death or god of justice, sometimes referred to as Dharma which means to maintain a law. In the Hindu scriptures, it is said, Yama decides the consequences or punishments of one’s deeds after death. This unconcious fear may be the result of guilt for not having chosen a virtuous solution by being humble towards each other in resolving their problem.
This story highlights the difference in social class where the ruling elite whom are the red bull keeper’s master, the village headman, and the rubber carrier’s boss, impose rules and regulations on the working class characters whom are the two bull keepers and the rubber carrier. The cultural hegemony can be seen from the first bull keeper’s fixed daily wage by his master which would not exceed more than thirty baht regardless of the amount of dedication and commitment that he put in providing care for the red bull. In addition to that, the highest reward that he would receive was enjoying a delicious feast at his master’s table only if the bull under his care won a fight. Inequality between social classes is also evident with the second bull keeper and the rubber carrier as well. For the second bull keeper, an appointment had to be fixed with the village headman and the bull had to be brought by the bull keeper although it is the village headman who wishes to see it. In the case of the rubber carrier, he was annoyed that his boss would be furious with him if the tubs filled with white rubber liquid were spilt and all the rubber in both tubs were lost, for the loss would be a whole day’s wage to the rubber carrier. If the lower working class people do not carry out their duties well, they will suffer a bigger loss in their daily life and this made them desperate to get across the bridge despite the obstruction by the two bull keepers and their bulls.
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