The Red Line


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The title of the short story “The Red Line” by Charles Higson does not immediately indicate what the story is about.

Berto, an Italian man who speaks little English, is lost and cannot find his way back to the home of Cathy, his love interest. When he finally gets the courage to ask someone for directions, the man he speaks to stabs him, and Berto is left bleeding and alone in the Underground carriage. Berto’s blood forms a red line on the floor, which reminds him that he was supposed to take the “Red Line” (the Central line) of the London Underground to reach Cathy’s.

The title’s meaning is, therefore, both literal and symbolic. The red line of blood becomes a symbol of the Red Line of the Underground but also, from a broader perspective, a symbol of the alienation between the characters.. It also becomes a symbol of Berto’s death, as he decides to follow the red line: “All he had to do was follow the red line as it slowly made its way across the carriage floor.” (p. 73, ll. 36-37)

While the London Underground system is supposed to be a place of connection (transporting people from one part of the city to another), the relationship between the colour of the Central line on the map and Berto’s blood suggests the lack of connection between people living in big cities. None of the characters trust each other, because they are afraid they will be misunderstood, laughed at, or attacked.

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The Red Line

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