Soft Voice of the Serpent, a short story by Nadine Gordimer tells of the most bizarre relationship which a man, who has lost his leg, has with a wounded locust. When the man who is still trying to accept his own injury, notices that the locust has also been handicapped by the loss of a limb, he feels an instant connection towards the locust.
Now that the man has found something else which has to deal with the same thing he does his outlook on his situation is brighter. At this point the man’s confidence and esteem for himself are soaring, the locust has empowered him as a new person. But then the locust, when scared by the woman flies away.
The locust flying off crushes the man’s already dilapidated sense of self worth. Throughout the story the author conveys the message that mans feelings of capability and adequacy are often shattered by the same things which build us up.
Early on the man ignores his injury; he tries to keep busy by reading and just trying not to think about it. “He never let the realization get to him; he let himself realize it physically, but he never quite let it get to him”(Gordimer 396). Though he tries to forget his loss he is constantly reminded of it. “his attention was arrested sometimes, quite suddenly and compellingly by the sunken place under the rug where his leg used to be”( 396). The encounter of the man and locust spawns an instant relationship.
The common handicap that both the man and locust share allows the man to bond with something that has gone through the same pain and frustration that he has. “Of course he knew that feeling! The absolute certainty that the leg was there: one had only to lift it”(400). Now that the man had found someone with whom he could relate, his feelings of helplessness were diminished.
He for once had found some joy in his handicap. When the woman approaches the locust she bumps it with a stick startling it and causing it to fly off. Right back where he started, alone, the man has lost the only thing, which to him could make sense of his injury. “Don’t be a fool, ‘he said irritably.
They had forgotten that locust can fly”(401). The author shows that it is human nature to find something that we can relate to, and at the same time a fault which we indulge in to make ourselves feel needed and worthy. This irrational thinking tends to result in the let down of the individual who places so much trust in something.