In the Absence of Bureaucracy – Annie, Grade 11

This literary analysis is written by one of my grade 11 students. The essay is based on the short story “The Street that Got Mislaid” by Patrick Waddington. The writer has appropriately pointed out the theme of the story. She has provided enough supporting details, including some textual elements, to support the theme.  


In the Absence of Bureaucracy

Governments are created with the intention of implementing rules to protect citizens’ rights. Thus, one would expect that governments would make life better with more protection and services, but that is not always the case. In the short story “The Street That Got Mislaid” by Patrick Waddington, the main character, Mark, who works at the filing section of the City Hall and takes pride in his job, stumbles upon a lost index card labelled “Green Bottle Street.” Shocked at his finding, Marc decides to fix the error after visiting the forgotten street. However, while there, he hears about the peaceful lives of the inhabitants and decides to tear the index card so that the street would remain mislaid forever. Through his short story, Waddington conveys the message that without bureaucracy and government control people can enjoy a clean environment, a peaceful mood, and close personal relationships, which brings one to question the so-called benefits of government bureaucracy.

In the short story, Waddington shows how people living in Green Bottle Street live a better life in a clean and spotless environment. When Marc walks into Green Bottle Street, he sees “the houses [look] extremely neat and well kept” (Waddington 2). This neatness gives Marc a wonderful first impression of the street and is one of the factors that makes him want to live there. Since Green Bottle Street is mislaid due to the lost index card, its tidiness and clean environment show that in the absence of bureaucracy people can protect their environment successfully. In contrast, Marc, who lives under the control of government bureaucracy, has a room that “defie[s] improvement” (Waddington 4). His room looks more run down and unorganized compared to houses in Green Bottle Street. No one would enjoy living under bureaucracy if it cannot provide a better environment than places that are not. In fact, Marc dislikes his home so much that he prefers his office more. In comparison, Green Bottle Street seems to be an oasis, far from the chaotic and grimy world outside. By contrasting Marc’s unsatisfactory home with the delightful houses on Green Bottle Street, Waddington conveys the message that one’s living environment may be better without the control of the government. 

Waddington also shows how life without bureaucracy is better by describing a serene atmosphere. In the story, the inhabitants of Green Bottle Street have a tranquil life without any disturbance. After the Green Bottle Street index card got mislaid at the City Hall, “no inspector would go there, no census takers, no tax collectors” (Waddington 3). For the people living on the street, going out of government control has brought them peace and quiet. They feel much happier in their utopia. Without the government, the inhabitants can have more leisure time and create a better life for themselves. Even Marc, a government worker, thinks that all these inspectors and tax collectors are just a nuisance to the people, which is very ironic. One would expect Marc to believe in enforcing the government’s laws and policies since it is his duty. But he thinks that without any bureaucracy, “all would pass merrily by” (Waddington 3). He even makes up his mind to rip the index card apart so that the street will never be disturbed anymore. This situational irony makes it clear that the tranquillity of Green Bottle Street is alluring not only to the citizens but also to outsiders. To conclude, a peaceful atmosphere is an important trait of a joyful life, a trait that citizens are often deprived of under the rule of governments.

Apart from a comfortable environment and mood, Waddington’s depiction of amicable neighbours also supports the idea that residents are much better off without government bureaucracy. When Marc converses with a house owner, Miss Trusdale, he finds her very amiable and warmhearted. Despite knowing that Marc is working for the city hall and could potentially tear her peaceful life to pieces, Miss Trusdale still “smile[s] pleasantly at him” (Waddington 4). Smiling sends Mark a warm and welcome feeling, making him feel at ease and creating a longing in him for such a genial neighbourhood. Compared to Miss Trusdale, the neighbours that Marc currently has are grumpy and ill-tempered. In fact, one main reason for Marc to hope to live in Green Bottle Street is “his landlady, [and] his belligerent neighbours” (Waddington 4). Having a landlady that constantly wants to remind him to pay his rent, and neighbours that have a hostile attitude towards him, Mark naturally is willing to move away to a better place. No one would want to stay somewhere with unfriendly people all around. Therefore, by comparing Marc’s neighbours with Miss Trusdale, Waddington clarifies why Marc would want to move to Green Bottle Street, a street that is not under government bureaucracy.

Through “The Street That Got Mislaid,” Waddington conveys the message that having a government may not necessarily contribute to a better life with a wonderful environment, mood, and neighbours. While for many people in democratic societies, Waddington’s theme may come across as an insane assertion, a brief look at the state of the world clearly shows the opposite. Out of the 195 countries around the world, only a small percentage of countries enjoy a responsible government. Many governments in countries such as North Korea, Iraq, and Iran are not making life easier for their citizens, many of whom live in fear and poverty. In fact, the residents of many countries in the world would be better off, were they given the chance to manage their own affairs.