In turn, Span One was recognized as one of the hardest working spans in the camp. Here we see how one event can alter almost everything. Brille was clever enough to get what he wanted not only for himself but also for his men through one small act.
Head shows us the importance of working together to accomplish things. While we live in a society where more and more people live isolated lives, despite our ability to “connect” with anyone any where at any time, this story takes place in a confined space. The men here are limited to what they can do and with whom they can speak. Brille establishes a sense of camaraderie among those in Span One and this makes all the difference in the world because the men truly believe “what happens to one of us, happens to us all” (503). The context of the story makes this point more salient. The political prisoners create a sense of unity among their own in Span One, using psychological techniques that were the “strength of Span One and a clue to the strange terror they aroused in the warders” (502). Teamwork and camaraderie will carry a group of men far, even within a prison setting.
Head also demonstrates how we are more alike than we would believe. We pass strangers every day and sometimes we think we may have nothing, or very little, in common with them. Brille and Hannetjie seem as opposites in the beginning of the story. Our sympathy first reaches out to Brille because we see him suffer a beating for stealing cabbage. Hannetjie comes across as controlling and downright mean. On the face of it, these two men would seem to have very little in common.
Brille thinks of fighting in his own home, remembering how everything was “pretty horrible, especially the way the children fought” (503). However, as the story progresses, we discover Hannetjie has his own problems at home. He confronts Brille and says, “This thing between me and you must end. You may not know it but I have a wife and children and youre driving me to suicide” (504), allowing us to see how both men have stress on the outside and that makes them similar. In the end, we see these men do want the same thing because they both want very little trouble in their lives. It seems as though each man has figured out a way to make this happen. We do this almost every day in many different situations.
On the surface, “The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses” is a tale about political prisoners in a camp. However, it is about much more when we look at the points Head makes with these men. While they are in a camp, they do not do anything that is not practiced on the outside. They forge friendships and alliances as well as take advantage of opportunity when they can. Their circumstances also carry some of the same characteristics as ours do in every day life. We can rarely judge anything on the surface and even when we think we might have everything figured out, things can literally change in an instant. Looking at these men in camp forces us to realize we are more like them than we might first think. We are human and this bond forces us to behave in certain ways regardless of circumstance.
Head, Bessie. “The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses.” The Bedford Introduction To Literature..