Updated September 10, 2022

Theme of Alienation in Literature

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Theme of Alienation in Literature essay
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This essay will explain how “alienation” presents itself, in each of the three reading texts by: “Hands” by Sherwood Anderson, “A Rose For Emily” by William Faulkner, and “Outcast” by Claude McKay. Alienation is defined as the state of being an outsider or feeling of being isolated from society. This condition may be caused for various reasons, such as hatred toward society, and rejection from others because of one’s unique personality, a tragedy, or other unforeseen life events. While alienating oneself may seem like a solution for dealing with problems around other people, it will also be harmful in the long run, leading to feelings of confusion, dissolution and hopelessness. Alienation is a common theme in literature. Alienated characters create a sense of intrigue with a personal reliance that they are faced with.

“Hands” by Sherwood Anderson, is about a man named Wing Biddlebaum and his hands. His hands move erratically, “like unto the beating of the wings of an imprisoned bird”, hence the name he was given Wing by one person in the town in which he lived. Wing Biddlebaum is an old man who unfortunately lives an alienated life, even though he has lived in Winesburg for twenty years he “did not think of himself as in any way part of the life of the town”. During the long years of residing there he never considered himself as a part of the community. The only person who he actually develops a friendship with was George Willard. During a conversation with George, Wing says “I must be getting home. I can talk no more with you”. This is an example of the memory in his head that makes him suffer. A memory in which was from Wing’s past that was horrific and afraid for him to tell his friend George.

In William Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily”, Emily Grierson is alone and isolated in a small town in the Old South. Emily is stuck living in the past within the isolated reality that she has been forced into by her own father and that she continued to create herself. Her resistance to change is what leads her to more isolation. Emily’s feeling of alienation began when she was a young woman. She became this way because of the way she was raised by an abusive father, the community, and traditions. Her father considered themselves better than others from their town. Emily’s father was strict and overbearing, would not allow her to date any man he did not feel worthy. For that time period, women married for a good social standing.

Emily in a sense did not have much going for her in life because of her father depriving her from all of life’s experiences. She did not have any friends, boyfriends, or to be a “normal woman to gain the ability for some kind of happiness. He controlled Emily until his death. The townspeople were not any better by their perception of Emily’s status in the community, and they pitied her quite a bit. When Emily is seen with Homer Barron by the townspeople, the gossiping ladies all said, “of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer”.

The constant gossiping of these women, Emily held her head high, even when all of them believed she had fallen. “Poor Emily” all the horrible events in her life such as the death of her father and her family disputes leaving her all alone at his funeral, causes the townspeople to feel sorry for her. This pity is makes her more seclusive. Even when the people believe she plans to kill herself, the people “said it would be the best thing”. Emily’s alienation that she felt by her father, the townspeople, and more so her own self, enables her to commit these horrid acts.

In Claude McKay’s “Outcast”, is about a man being taken from his origins and brought to a foreign place and feels like an outcast and feelings of alienation. He wants to go back to his native homeland in Africa, where his soul would fit in with his surroundings, but being here he feels he does not. “I would go back to darkness and to peace”. He feels that he is being forced to comply with the culture of the new foreign land. In the last line in the poem, “For I was born, far from my native clime, Under the white man’s menace, out of time”. He is saying that his oppression of the African American feel at the hand of the white man. This embodies the strive for equality and it is a long process, because the white man in our society.

Theme of Alienation in Literature essay

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What are the types of alienation?
The four dimensions of alienation identified by Marx are alienation from: (1) the product of labor, (2) the process of labor, (3) others, and (4) self . Class experiences usually fit easily into these categories.
What is alienation in postcolonial literature?
Colonial alienation is a product of the overall process of colonisation of society and mind . It is experienced at linguistic, cultural, historical and existential levels. So it becomes much more complicated and multi-layered. Colonised people are alienated from their own languages.
What is an example of alienation?
An example of alienation is when a cheating wife is discovered by her husband, and he can no longer stand to be around her so he files for divorce . Emotional isolation or dissociation. The act of alienating or the condition of being alienated; estrangement.
Why is alienation used in literature?
A Alienation is a common theme in literature as it can elicit many deep emotions . It can be attached to characters who have acted very drastically or who need to do so. Either way, alienated characters create a sense of intrigue with the personal reliance that they are faced with.
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