The Theme of Alienation Essay

The stories “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” and “The Wall” clearly describe the dark side of alienation. As one reads these works one gets a true feeling for the plights endured by the old man in, “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” and Pablo in, “The Wall”. This essay will discuss and compare the theme of loneliness among these characters. In “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” we are introduced to a deaf old man who visits a cafe frequently in the evenings. It becomes clear rather quickly that this old man is quite lonely. We see this in the fact that he never has any company sitting with him and also in the way the two waiters in the story talk about him.

An example of the waiters view is seen in the dialogue between them whereas the younger waiter has no tolerance for the old man’s isolatory manner. When they are discussing the fact that the old man has not left the cafe and it is late, the older waiter defends him by saying, “he stays up because he likes it” while the younger waiter answers by saying, “He’s lonely. I’m not lonely. I have a wife waiting in bed for me. ” Both waiters have opposing views of this man. What is striking is that the waiter who is dealing with alienation himself is quite compassionate towards the old man, whereas the other waiter has no tolerance for his existence.

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The young man’s flippant response is symbolic of the tendency of society to quickly negate the elderly, not only because of their age, but also due to a disregard for their existence. This, in turn, can create a sense of isolation for an elderly people. Now, let’s look more closely at the old man’s behavior. A theme that is evident in this character in regard to alienation is distraction. There is a tendency for lonely people to want to distract themselves from their loneliness. This is quite apparent when the old man continues to request more brandy by gesturing, “A little more,” and also by saying, “Another brandy”.

How often do people who are lonely try to quell that feeling through alcohol. Another thing to note is that this man supposedly has a lot of money, but it is obvious money does not take away loneliness. This is a common occurrence in society as well. How often have we heard stories of lonely millionaires? They have everything, but companionship, which basically is much more fulfilling than material goods. Alienation is introduced again through the character, Pablo, in, “The Wall”. In this essay Pablo was forced into isolation by suddenly being thrown into prison.

One is taken on his journey as he goes through the stages of loneliness while facing possible execution. He wrestles with isolation by moving through varying spectrums ranging from complete detachment to harkening to his past life. This fluid range of thinking differs from the old man’s isolation process. These differences will be discussed further. When comparing Pablo to the old man one can infer that Pablo’s isolation has nothing to do with age, rather, as mentioned previously, his isolation is a forced one. Suddenly finding oneself in prison, one does not have the luxury to choose loneliness.

In contrast, it is possible that the old man has chosen the path of loneliness. However, what makes these characters similar is the theme of distraction and isolation. Both characters tried hard to get their minds off of their lack of social connections. At one point Pablo tries to distract himself by reflecting on his past. We see this in the quote, “A crowd of memories came back to me pell-mell. ” At this point he reflects on things such as his uncle’s face, the time when he was unemployed, and a time when he went without eating during a three day period.

Concerning the old man, distraction comes into play through his drinking and also in his desire to be in an environment that had light and people even if he was there as a detached presence. In conclusion, the authors present solid representations of alienation through the old man and Pablo. Whether isolation comes from choice or forces it, it still has negative connotations to it. It could be said that alienation is one of the highest forms of punishment. It can put one in a prison literally or figuratively.


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