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Alienation

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Numerous literary characters feel disconnected from the social and cultural institutions which surround them. For instance, some, like Jake Barnes in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, are unable to connect with their local communities. Others, such as Caddy Compson from the novel by William Faulkner The Sound and the Fury Feel isolated from their most intimate friends, relatives, and friends. Some, like Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, are apathetic to the religious institutions where they were raised. the feeling of being alienated can be so extreme that characters or characters feel disconnected from God the Creator. The most extreme instance of alienation can be seen in the characters like Meursault in the novel by Albert Camus The Stranger, who feels disconnected from all the people with whom they interact including his family, society, and all of modern-day life. The emergence of characters in literature that struggle with the feeling of isolation is the result of the actual struggle that many humans face with feeling isolated from, rejected by, and not connected to others and to the social institutions that define and determine our lives. It is an incredibly powerful force one that pushes us towards self-pity and self-loathing violence, vulnerability, and self-pity however it can also bring positive effects of deep reflection and intellectual autonomy. A lot of people associate alienation to the latter half of the century and even beyond as well as the modernist movement, which spanned between 1890 and 1950, had among its main concepts the notion that in the age of modernity and its increasing reliance on technology and science and the gradual exile of individuals from the rural community and to urban isolation individuals and societies are in conflict with each other. Modernism examines how our relationships with one another as well as with social institutions like the church, schools, or work, as well as family have become less and less which has led us to become more individualistic in our thought and, consequently, isolated. Actually, the novels mentioned above are all in the tradition of modernism. Alongside the novels mentioned above with their alienated characters modernism was also responsible for works such as T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” and “The Love Song of

J. Alfred Prufrock,” two poems that examine at length the human’s separation from each other in addition to the environment surrounding them. For instance”Prufrock” is a poem about alienation “Prufrock,” even though the poem begins with, “Let us go then, you and I” (l. 1) The poem never appears as if it’s telling the tale of a couple. It’s almost like the speaker appears to be under the impression that he’s part of the community, but is completely isolated. The word “you” has been variously taken to mean the author, the reader, or a missing element of the speaker. This is the problem — that the speaker isn’t alone however, he is clearly isolated from the person he is with that causes the sensation of isolation. At the close of the poem the speaker states, “I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each / I do not think that they will sing to me” (ll. 124-125). He is still active and moving around the world, yet the world is not his, and is hearing, but not listening. The 20th century also explored the notion of being alienated by depicting characters who are isolated from each other despite family connections or close proximity. For instance, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, for example, the main protagonist, Jay Gatsby, born Jay Gatz, has cut himself away from his past, which has led him to be cut off from his location within society. This is done so that he can be part of Daisy Buchanan’s world, one filled with wealth, social status, and superficiality. But despite his move but he’s still not at home from Daisy’s circle of friends, who view him as a foreigner and out from the norm. He longs to be one of Daisy’s world but the reason he does this is in the belief that it is the best way to win her affection. Because he takes this path, which seems not natural to the person he is, his plan is bound to not succeed. The contemporary world Fitzgerald portrays in The Great Gatsby is a fabricated world with fake distinctions between West

Egg and East Egg; it’s the social caste system that leads Myrtle Wilson to have no more value than an animal; and its monumental Valley of Ashes, an artificial barrier separating the rich and the poor, brought about by capitalism and industrialization–suggests a world that will eventually alienate us all from one another by replacing honesty and emotion with facade and ambition. While the 20th century has been the most prominent place for writing about alienation, the idea is more rooted in the past. The biblical tale of the golden calves, for instance, depicts an entire population that is separated from God and themselves. In the narrative, Moses has left the Israelites for forty days and 40 nights in order to ascend Mount Sinai and receive the Ten Commandments. Because they’re not connected to Moses as well, they disengage from the concept of God and are immediately afraid that they are not alone in the world. They also require an idol to guide their beliefs. They then get Moses and his brother Aaron to make a gold calf to serve them. According to Erich Fromm points out, this tale demonstrates the way “man is in touch with himself only through the worship of the idols” (quoted in Khan 196). The story naturally originates from the time of the

Old Testament, before the advent of Christ. One way to look at the New Testament is that the arrival of Christ the Messiah is the salvation of the world from the state of being alienated from God. In Paul’s Epistle addressed to Ephesians, Paul writes, “Remember that ye were without Christ, beings alien from the Commonwealth of Israel” (Eph 2:12 KJV). This link, therefore, is crucial for Paul because, for him, an alienated being naturally seeks connections. The notion of alienation will remain primarily theological throughout time. The word “alienation” was used in Middle English, the word was a reference to a type of “transfer,” almost as if one was a person who owned oneself and, if “aligned” or “alienated,” the person was transferring ownership to someone different. It could be active and antagonistic, as though one was forced to make the transfer however, it could also be unaffected and indifferent as if one were releasing oneself in a voluntary manner. In addition to transferring one’s desires to God the concept of alienation in the way, we understand it as it is today was not a reality. In the 18th century Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques, Rousseau would postulate that alienation is the act of giving oneself completely, and it is beneficial to the individual in integrating into society and getting rid of the self-centered state where one is only serving oneself. While this might sound like a positive idea, however, to Rousseau this was the dependence upon other people that society encourages that caused the entire vices. The philosopher believed that humans have to surrender their rights in order to “transfer” them to the community. This causes humans to be in a feeling of alienation. At the turn of the century, it was the German theorist Georg Hegel took up Rousseau’s philosophy, stating that we “live in a world shaped by his work and his knowledge, but it is a world in which man feels alien, a world whose laws prevent basic need satisfaction” (qt. in Khan 26). Hegel expands on Rousseau’s concepts in this essay, asserting that modern man is constantly feeling the conflict between his personal needs and his participation in society. The result is a feeling of alienation or detachment. Hegel focused his work on the primary source of this separation which was replicated in the writings by Karl Marx, who articulated notions of alienation in a way that any other person before, and who is considered to be one of the foremost thought leaders on the subject. Marx defined alienation as the state that takes place when things that ought to naturally connect are not.

Modernity, Marx argued, does this in various ways. The Industrial Revolution created workers who were separated from their fundamental humanity because they were considered “machines” as opposed to humans. Furthermore, they are separated from one another since there isn’t any social interaction in the process of creating commodities. They also are separated from the item they produce as it is offered for sale with no connection to the person who created it, as well as from the work in itself since there is no fulfillment or fulfillment of desire. Work in the preindustrial era did not possess these qualities, since the majority of work was done in a home environment, and with tangible results, and to many people, a distinct feeling of satisfaction and pride. For Marx and several other philosophers and theorists on alienation, the more society is removed from these “natural” states, the more disenfranchised we’ll become.

Also Albee, Edward; Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Bradbury, Ray: Martian Chronicles, The; Carver Raymond: “Cathedral”; Dos Passos, John: U.S.A. trilogy; Fitzgerald, F. Scott: Tender Is the Night; Gaines, Ernest J.: Lesson Before Dying A. Hesse, Herman: Steppenwolf; Kushner, Tony: Angels in America; McCullers, Carson: Heart Is a Lonely Hunter the; Miller, Arthur: Crucible The, Momaday N. Scott: House Made of Dawn; O’Neill, Eugene: Iceman Cometh The. Shakespeare, William: Tempest Shakespeare, William: Tempest. Toomer, Jean: Cane.

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