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The Tower Pig

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What happens when in spite of all odds, foe becomes friend? What happens, when an infinite and unending chasm between individuals is filled, and a void of mistrust, hatred and prejudice is replaced with more noble values, such as understanding and a sense of mutual respect? These are among the themes in the American short story, "The Tower Pig."

The story is set behind, and outside, the walls of the Thomaston Penitentiary in present day America. The story essentially revolves around a young man who suffers the hardships of imprisonment in an American correctional facility. The protagonist is throughout the tale addressed only by his surname, Caine. Caine expresses incomprehensible anger he feels for one of the wardens, an outcast despised by colleagues and inmates alike, and who is commonly known as "The Tower Pig" by all the prisoners at the facility. "Pain, joy, worry, are shielded away until the cell doors slam and we're alone in our solitude. For ten days in the hole, I had nothing to do but hate Strazinsky, the Tower Pig, for putting me there, and to mourn my grandmother, finally to sick to visit." When we are first introduced to Caine, he has just come out of "The Hole." The Hole is presumably a slang expression for a non-corporal punishment, which implies the use of isolation for the involved offender. This sort of punishment is usually deployed as a reaction to a disciplinary offense; this is also the case with Caine. Caine put in the hole because of a verbal fight with Strazinsky. While Caine undoubtedly finds Strazinsky to be responsible for his punishment, it seems, looking back in retrospective, that he is fully aware that he himself was to blame; yet all Caine's inner turmoil and anger is channelled into his hate for Strazinsky, and the fury towards his arch-enemy continues to blaze. Imprisonment tends to have a debilitating effect on both mind and body alike. Therefore in order to counter a mental breaking, one must deploy facades, facades that show strength and vitality, since any behaviour expressing the slightest trait of weakness will be preyed upon by both inmates and wardens. Caine seems fully aware of this, and prudently manages to keep all his fears and doubts to himself. Caine is greatly disturbed upon learning about the death of his beloved grandmother, the one person who, despite him being imprisoned, still managed to show him both love and care. Caine is granted permission to go to her funeral, but in spite of being only a minimum-security inmate, he must go in chains, and under the vigilant eye of a designated warden.

Strazinsky is the warden in the Thomaston Penitentiary. He is the object that Cain directs most of his hatred towards. "...Strazinsky stays up on the wall whenever he can, sequestered in North Post, the gun tower that commands the prison street. Older inmates will argue how long he's been the Tower Pig, but no one denies he's been on that wall longer than most of us have been inside it. His brother officers, doing their eight hours in the tower and loathing their isolation, don't know what to make of him. To them he's a freak, an outcast, almost no better than the inmates." Strazinsky is an interesting character, a secluded individual estranged from all at the penitentiary and the nemesis of the main character. The hatred Caine has for Strazinsky seems repaid in kind at first, only later does one learn that such an assumption is incorrect. What makes Strazinsky a very interesting character is the fact that throughout the story he remains an enigma to all. After the journey to the funeral, nobody is more confused than Caine. The inner machinations of Strazinsky are carefully guarded from all unwanted trespassers, which is similar to how Caine keeps his feelings inconspicuous. So, while the two are different in several obvious ways, they also share certain similarities.

The ride to the funeral, and the funeral itself, are the real turning points of the story. Strazinsky begins to speak to Caine about how he understands the sorrow he must be feeling; Strazinsky even reveals that his mother passed away only recently, which resulted in pain that had proved difficult to handle. Living a withdrawn existence is probably not a thing Strazinsky enjoys, and he evidently finds neither joy nor pleasure in his status as a recluse. So, in spite of his willing isolation, it is my guess that the daunting prospect of letting his emotions eat him up from the inside,



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