Isolation in America

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by jaquelyndavis
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Language Arts
Reading Comprehension

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Isolation in America

When reviewing the texts we've read this semester, I come to one conclusion: these people are lonely. From Frost to Steinbeck to O'Connor, the authors of this century present us with voices that are small and insignificant in the face of larger society. They have no agency or power or connection; instead, they are isolated.

Adrienne Rich's "Diving Into the Wreck": Presenting a solution to isolation? Spiritual solitude like Thoreau's "Walking"

Isolation in America

Jaquelyn DavisSpring 2014English 152

Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men: In this text, loneliness is a tragedy. Community is where real hope lies for all of the men in the story, but of course, human bonds are unable to survive in this world. Rather than being cynical about the impossibilty of meaningful relationships, Steinbeck presents bonds so endearing that the reader is compelled to feel empathy, not bitterness, for the men who inevitably face loneliness and defeat. George says: "'If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.' Lennie broke in. 'But not us! An’ why? Because . . . because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.' He laughed delightedly." (Chapter 1). While there is beauty in the honesty of Lennie's love for George, we know that it will never last.

Frost's "Desert Places": Even the quiet emptiness of the landscape, with “snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast,” doesn’t compare with the speaker’s internal “desert places” (ln 1, 16). The speaker “is too absent-spirited to count” in this scene; there is no place for him at all (ln 7). He is the loneliness, a void like the whiteness of the snow with “nothing to express” (ln 12).

Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find":This story is the pinnacle of isolation. All of the characters in the text live in their own small worlds with no connections to family or stangers alike. The Misfit is the embodiment of this loneliness. “Turn to the right, it was a wall,” The Misfit said, looking up at the cloudless sky. “Turn to the left, it was a wall. Look up it was a ceiling, look down it was a floor. I forget what I done lady. I set there and set there, trying to remember what it was I done and I ain’t recalled it to this day" (2784). Not only is he isolated from those aroind him, but he is also isolated from the entire outside world as a whole, with no hope of understanding his relationship to it.

Jackson Browne's "The Pretender":Not only is this one of my all time favorite songs but it also captures the essence of the American we've seen in so many texts this semester, "caught between the longing for love and the struggle for the legal tender." The last lines are particularly telling: there is nowhere for man to end up but defeated and alone.

Are you there?Say a prayer for the PretenderWho started out so young and strongOnly to surrender


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