The Other Side of the Hedge


The Other Side of the Hedge

The Other Side of the Hedge is a 1911 narrative short story by E. M. Forster. Written in the first-person, "The Other Side of the Hedge" concerns the efforts of a "modern day" person who is concerned and/or consumed with achieving the goals he has set out for himself while traveling along a road to what may be perceived as success. He keeps close track of his progress along the road with the aid of his pedometer.

As the story begins, the man on the road has become tired and has stopped walking at the pedometer measurement of twenty-five. He is constantly being passed by those who are still moving very quickly and they jeer at him as they pass by; even those who are considered "educationist" exhort him to persevere. The man worries that he may be like his brother, whom he had to leave by the roadside a year or two back after the brother had "wasted his breath on singing and his strength on helping others". While standing on the road, portrayed by Forster as a dry dusty place with crackling hedges on either side, the man feels a puff of fresh air and sees a light coming from the other side of the hedge; he finds that he longs to "force his way in", but he is concerned that others may see him in this state of weakness. After deciding to investigate the light, the man crawls through a hole in the hedge and all the "things" he was carrying were scraped off him as he suddenly falls into a pool of water. Feeling as though he is sinking forever, he is suddenly pulled out of the water.

The man lies on the shore of a place of peace and beauty which, by the admission of those he finds there, "leads to nowhere, thank the Lord". The man is suspicious that he may be in a type of prison because he sees that the water he was pulled from appears to be a moat contained on one side by the hedge he has crawled through and the pastoral setting found on the other side. He begins to explore his setting and is disappointed in finding a cross-country race occurring with only one contestant, people engaged in singing for no purpose or "other rudimentary industries" in seeming happiness. He believes that their efforts lead nowhere. The man who pulled him out of the water explains that these efforts mean nothing but themselves, that there is no other purpose but the purpose of the thing. The man believes that "every achievement is worthless unless it is a link in the chain of development" and attempts to find his way back to the road that he has left. He is stopped by the man who pulled him out of the hedge, who insists that he first "see the gates, for we have gates, though we never use them". Two gates are shown: the first being "the gate that humanity went out countless ages ago..." and the second being the gate where the road ends "and through this gate humanity - all that is left of it - will come in to us". As the man's senses are overcome by this knowledge, he is lowered down to sleep by someone who he now sees is his brother.

ee also

Gates of horn and ivory


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