Isolation Essay, Research Paper

Nicole Bumbacco

Ms. Hannah


Dec 23, 1999

Isolation is defined in the Webster?s Encyclopedic Dictionary as occurring when

something is ?placed apart or alone.? Naturally, humans are faced with feelings of isolation at

certain times throughout their lives. However, there are particular types of isolation that capture

the imagination of writers and artists. Canadian authors are drawn towards the theme of

isolation in their literature. Characters portrayed in Canadian literature are either spiritually,

emotionally, physically or geographically isolated. Isolation can either have a positive or

negative affect on humans. Humans are often driven mad by isolation, where their only means of

escaping is by death. Others who are isolated develop psychotic tendances which cause them to

destroy themselves, as well as others. Throughout Canadian literature, isolation has an extremely

negative effect upon the development of the individual?s character.

In the short story ? The Lamp at Noon?, Sinclair Ross portrays the young woman Ellen

as a character who is driven mad by her geographical isolation. Throughout this story, Ellen

struggles to break free from the poor, barren and hopeless prairie landscape she and her family

inhabit. Ellen has little contact with other people. Living in a two bedroom home and once a

month to town with not a penny to spend was not the type of environment Ellen wanted to live in

( Ross, 36). Feelings of loneliness and isolation surround Ellen, trapping her in an inevitable,

hopeless future.

Undoubtable, Ellen?s geographical and physical isolation were not the only components

of Ellen?s insanity. Ellen felt emotionally isolated from her husband, Paul. Paul was too

preoccupied with his farm to even acknowledge Ellen?s feelings of isolation. Ellen addresses

Paul many times, trying to convince him to leave the deserted prairie. Paul does not listen to

Ellen. He feels that all he needs to provide Ellen with is clothes and nourishment (36). It is

clearly shown at the end of this story when Ellen is driven into a state of insanity that Paul also

needed to show her love and affection (42). Geographical and emotional isolation warped

Ellen?s character into a state of madness.

Sinclair Ross?s ? The Lamp at Noon? is not the only short story that portrays the negative

effects of isolation. In Susanna Moodie?s ? Brian the Still Hunter?, Brian?s isolation moulds

him into a demented and vile character. Brian?s alcoholism isolates him from himself as well as

others. When sober, others refer to him as a passionate man, but, ? when the wit was out and the

liquor was in, he was as savage as a quarrelsome bear? ( Ross, 6). Other?s feared Brian?s

unpredictable character and therefore Brian endured little contact with others. Brian?s

alcoholism also isolated him from his family both physically and emotionally. ?After being on a

spree for a week or two,…he would hide himself up in the woods and steal home at night, and get

what he wanted out of the pantry without speaking a word to anyone? (6). This quote

exemplifies the physical isolation Brian endures from his family, when he was drinking. Brian?s

isolation also resulted in an emotionally unhealthy relationship with his wife. Alcoholism

often compelled Brian to feel guilty and worthless toward his wife, ? he would take fits of

remorse, and return home to his wife- would go down upon his knees and ask her forgiveness

and cry like a child?(6). Brian?s entire character was destroyed inside, he felt worthless and

incapable. to escape his emotional isolation, Brian attempted to commit suicide. (8) Brian?s

unsuccessful attempt at suicide lead him into physical isolation again. ? he left off drinking

entirely, and wonders about the country with his dogs, hunting. he seldom speaks to anyone…?

(9). This quote exemplifies how Brain was driven into a state of insanity. The character of Brian

in this short story greatly displayed the negative effects isolation can have.

The negative effects of isolation can also be shown through W.O. Mitchell?s novel,

Ladybug, Ladybug. In Ladybug, Ladybug, the negative effects of isolation warp character

Charles Slaughter into a psychopath. The only time Charles felt loved or acknowledged

throughout his life was in the presence of his father. Even though Charles? father was rarely

around, he always remembered to bring him home a present. This gesture made Charles feel

loved and cared for. When his father passed away, Charles describes his life as a dark triangle,

one he can never escape ( Mitchell, 104). The little portion of self-worth Charles possessed

diminished after his father?s death when he was left isolated and alone with his abusive mother.

Charles? mother blamed her son for all of her problems, making Charles feel guilty and

worthless, ? What trespass damage she had done inside him, draining his battery so the

well-power motor could not turn over for him? (97). Treating Charles like a commodity,

Charles? mother destroyed his character. ?How had she done it to him? Through unfair denials:

no second helpings of wobbly jello, lovely maple walnut ice cream, with broken promises made

to ignite his anticipation so that he could later be destroyed? (97). The lack of love and affection

during his childhood warp Charles into a psychotic character later on in his life. Charles began to

stalk others, attempting to harm them. Though Charles did not want to physically harm others.

He only wanted others to experience the same type of emotional pain he endured during his

childhood. Charles kidnaps a young child, but does not physically harm her. Instead he captures

the child and ties her up. The purpose of this kidnapping was to torment the child?s mother, and

make her feel emotionally distraught. Two days later, Charles set the child free:

Unbind the child. The time hath come to set her free, for thou has carried out my

commandment as I behave bade thee do. The whore mother hath been wounded

well. For two long nights and days of torment hath the deepest pain and anguish a

mother can ever know, her heart is broken. This why the purpose, and hath been

accomplished now (244).

At the end of the novel, Charles committed suicide. Charles felt the only way to escape his

isolation was by death. In heaven, Charles would be reunited with his father and renew his self

worth. It is clearly evident through the demented character of Charles Slaughter how isolation

negatively affects the individual.

The poem ?The Martyrology? by P. B. Nichol is focused upon how spiritual isolation

results in a negative way. A martyr is someone who dies for their religion in order to break away

from their spiritual isolation ?how can I live /who cannot be without you?(line 25). Through

death martyr?s feel they will be united with God, where they will no longer feel the separation

between heaven and earth. This spiritual separation also alters a human?s state of mind,

causing them to be driven mad. ?what can I do/ who shall I be/ I can?t see you any more/ no

direction sign /no longing? (lines 19-20). Since humans can not physically see God, they are

always left wondering and are left emotionally isolated in their own world. Spiritually, humans

will always be isolated from God, which results in a negative way.

Throughout Canadian Literature it is quite evident that isolation has an extremely

negative effect upon the development of the individual?s character. The short story ? The Lamp

at Noon? displays a woman driven into a state of madness due to her emotional and geographical

isolation. WO Mitchell portrays the negative effects of isolation through psychotic character of

Charles Slaughter who endures physical and emotional isolation. In Moodie?s ?Brian the Still

Hunter? Brian?s character displays the negative assets of isolation through his reliance on

alcohol. The poem ?From the Martyrology? shows the negative ways in which humans are

spiritually isolated. Isolation is experienced by individuals in different ways. It does not occur to

just those who endure hardships. Isolation is a fundamental human fact in which we all strive to

break free of or avoid.

Mitchell, W.O. Ladybug, Ladybug. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1988.

Moodie, Susanna. ?Brian the Still Hunter? Isolation in Canadian Literature. Ed. David

Arnason and Alice K. Hale. Toronto: The Macmillian Company of Canada

Limited,1975. 4-16.

Nichol, P. B.? From the Martyrology? Isolation in Canadian Literature.Ed.David

Arnason and Alice K. Hale. Toronto: The Macmillian Company of Canada Limited,

1975. 97-98.


Ross, Sinclair. ?The Lamp at Noon.? Isolation in Canadian Literature. Ed. David

Arnason and Alice K. Hale. Toronto: The Macmillian Company of Canada Limited,

1975. 31-43.

Nichol, P. B.? From the Martyrology? Isolation in Canadian Literature.Ed.David

Arnason and Alice K. Hale. Toronto: The Macmillian Company of Canada Limited,

1975. 97-98.

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