Karen Nathalie Soto Le N Loneliness English Literature Essay

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Here I am, all by myself, trying to avoid this solitude, trying to get used to it. Throughout our life, we face difficulties and obstacles. We gather up strength and conviction to go on, either in the company of others or all by ourselves. But, despite everything, the most important thing is to overcome the situation, even when loneliness is our only allied. Everything that happens to us has a reason, and sometimes it is to discover new things about us, about life, about love.

In this essay I am going to talk about how loneliness had a really significant role in two stories, Black Like Me and Ellen Foster. I think these stories are pretty similar, and even though the former is based on a true story, the latter resembles exactly the way in which one experiences loneliness. I am going to pinpoint how loneliness was important in the life of the main characters, which are John Griffin and Ellen Foster.

Black Like Me tells the story of a white man called John; he darkened his skin in order to become a Negro, he went over medical treatment, shaved his head and even cut the hair on his hands to look exactly like a Negro. He traveled to some places in which he could experience life as a Negro does. After a while he turns white again, and he has a better perspective of how society is divided and what it is like to live being a Negro.

John Griffin went through this anecdote all by himself, supported by his wife and his friends, but he was the only one who lived the experiences and problems of his adventure. He faced loneliness and alienation as well, he had not thought of how he was going to feel when he turned black, and this is why he felt alienated. Black society accepted him and even gave him such a confidence that he had no problems getting along well with them, but since the first moment he was a black man, white society rejected him.

Ellen Foster is a story in which the main characters also experienced solitude. Ellen was a girl whose mother died, she lived with her father, an alcoholic man who abused her and did not take care of her. At the very beginning of the book, Ellen says that she has thought so many times about the ways in which she could kill her father. Although she missed her mother, she would rather being alone. Through the story she shared her life with her few friends and her adoptive family, but at the same time, she lived everything in a state of isolation.

Like I said before, these two people suffered loneliness, but it was not just because they were alone, in fact, I think that sometimes they caused loneliness to themselves. When John was white he followed the rules of the society, even when he did not want to do that, and just because it was supposedly correct, he was alone when he has among black people. As well, Ellen was the one who caused loneliness to herself since she had the idea that black people were not good company.

I would like to pinpoint the difference between being alone and feeling lonely. When someone is alone, it could mean literally that there is no other person with him, that he is the only one in a place at a specific moment. But when we say that someone feels lonely, it means that it does not matter the fact of being surrounded by people because, despite this, the person will feel isolated, and the feeling of loneliness will cut him off that situation.

Both John and Ellen had certain moments in which they were alone and were happy, there were other moments in which they were alone and lonely, and, of course, sometimes they were in good company, but their current situation made them feel lonesome. Whenever they feel lonely they had to keep on going. They knew it was not going to be easy, but simultaneously that seclusion helped them becoming stronger and making decisions.

Sometimes it is good to be alone, and there are some people who enjoy being on their own. Ellen is a clear example of that, she liked when her father was not home; she was absolutely at ease when there was only her in the empty house. We have to think of how things changed when we are alone, our behavior is different because we are confident, in fact, we feel as owners of the whole moment in which we are living, a moment when we are able to control everything. Being alone is not necessarily a bad thing, and it does not involve sadness either; it depends on how a person is capable of feeling unperturbed by the company of solitude.

Quite the opposite, we might be in the company of many people, and still have that feeling of alienation; that is what happened to John, either when he was white or when he was black. It was very difficult for him to fit in the society, he was living in a state of ambiguity and neutralism, but at the same time he was a bridge between two lands. He was always surrounded by people, and he was welcomed either in the white or black society, but still he felt that he did not belong to any of them.

We have an example of alienation and strangeness at the beginning of John's story, right after he changed the color of his skin. The first time he saw himself on a mirror he felt he was not John anymore. "In the flood of light against white tile, the face and shoulders of a stranger-a fierce, bald, very dark Negro- glared at me from the glass. He in no way resembled me." [1] This is another characteristic of loneliness, sometimes we feel that not even ourselves are the right person to stay with.

Another example of alienation is demonstrated when John called his wife. "When my wife answered, the strangeness of my situation again swept over me. I talked with her and the children as their husband and father, while reflected in the glass windows of the booth I saw another man they would not know." [2] Before calling his wife, John was waiting to see a Negro using the phone, he was among Negroes, and so there was no problem in doing a phone call, the real problem was that, as a Negro, he felt he did not have the right to call a white woman deliberately.

I have mentioned that in some cases we are the cause of our loneliness. Ellen lived in a society in which racism and segregation were still a daily problem, since Ellen was white, she did not feel at ease in the company of her best Friend Starletta. In actual fact she did feel well with Starletta, but she had some prejudices about black people and she knew it was not correct to have a very close contact with her. This made Ellen unhappy, but at the same time this helped her on her development as we can notice when she said, "I wonder to myself am I the same girl who would not drink after Starletta two years ago or eat a colored biscuit when I was starved?" [3] 

It is also interesting that one of the main causes of John and Ellen's loneliness is racism. I am not saying that racism is always what causes loneliness, I am just saying that sometimes society has an important role, and we feel that we have to fit in society. We follow rules and, in some cases, it makes us seem well when in fact we are not happy with that. Society is an organism formed by individuals; therefore it should be a general representation of each of them, but as well, society might be seen as a bigger group which shapes the way of living of its individuals.

Many times John felt lonely, and so did Ellen. Though they were involved with many people, there were sometimes in which they felt alone, and when they were alone, that feeling was even worse. They belonged to a determined part of society, but simultaneously they were part of the whole society. Since John was a white man, he had to behave as whites, and when he turned black he had to follow their behavior. As well, Ellen wanted to stay with her black friends, but she also wanted to have the suitable manners according to her white society.

In both stories we noticed how the life of the characters changed after a period of solitude, the results were surprising because they did things they had thought they were not going to be able to do. In the two cases they experienced bad moments because of their loneliness, but this was what encouraged them to change their way of living. Through their experience we see how it is good to make decisions by ourselves; loneliness helps us becoming more independent and strong, it helps when our temper is not at the best moment, and it also makes easy for us to take control of our situation and go ahead.

I would like to say that these stories were very important to me not just because I learned more about English literature, but because I found a way of escaping from everything. I feel really connected to these novels, and I think that I got more than thought. Currently we live in a state of selfishness, where none cares about the others, but I think we should find a way to enjoy our solitude and at the same time share it with our comrades. I think we should reflect on how we have been living and the consequences of our actions, we definitely should be closer to our family and our beloved ones in order to get loneliness away.