The Theme of Alienation

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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 café 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 café 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. 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...
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