The theme of Isolation of identity comes with the perspective on the subjective ego that differs between the works involved within the modernist, imperialist, and Anglican time period in British Literature. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot, is a modernist poem about the self-awareness and insecurity of everyday life. Furthermore, the fact that the poem was created within the modernism era allows an enhancement to the theme based on the concept of selflessness.
Within the poem, T.S. Eliot uses dimmed diction such as "smoke," "fog," "city," "drown" to create a stronger image around the atmosphere of the poem. Moreover, T.S. Eliot uses this poem as a way to showcase the concept of "ego-death," allowing himself to create a complete loss of subjective self-identity and invest into the world he lives around. Eliot talks of measuring life out with coffee spoons, using such an ordinary item to be the reflection of measuring out his life allows the audience to perceive Eliot's thoughts on life as artificial. In addition, the whole poems general repetition and dimmed tone in describing a gloomy city, all add to the concept of subjective identity. He is allowing the poem to guide the audience into a raw reality of the poets perspective, talking about how ordinary items guide their life and how people come and go looking for high expectations only to be faced with a disappointment because of the obstruction of reality, which is symbolized when Eliot references Michelangelo.
The modernism era takes the theme of isolation of identity in a negative perspective, as there is a recurring motif of reality being the bitter end, accompanied by the depressed of the normalities in life. This can be contrasted with another poem by T.S. Eliot titled, "Ash Wednesday" which was published after "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." While Prufrock takes a perspective of the isolation of identity through psychic death subjecting himself with his atmosphere around him rather than his personality and ego, Ash Wednesday gives the perspective of isolation of identity in a positive manner by giving one's self to Anglicanism. Although this was written by a modernist poet and is within a smaller spread of time it grants the audience with the influence of the Anglican time period. Within the poem, Eliot talks of converting to Anglicanism moving from spiritual despair to salvation, rejecting the beauty of the world and accepting change within the human condition.
This shows the developments of the theme, as isolation is represented by giving one's self to the hands of spirituality and religion. Ash Wednesday reveals the symbolism of religion and its strength in identifying as a pawn for spirituality. Furthermore, in traditional practice religion is based off beliefs, prayer and a higher power to help guide someone's morality and purity. The representation in this poem enhances the theme by stemming away from having a loss of ego, into embracing their ego by giving it to the hands of spirituality as a guide for morality. This can be seen as a twist within British Literature when it comes to being isolated in identity, as the modernist era eludes to feelings of isolation and depression in the conformity of reality while the Anglican era allows embracement of isolation through the eyes of religion and spirituality.
Another work that can be compared is George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant" which embarks behind the era of Imperialism and provides a different perspective on the isolation of identity. Furthermore, George Orwell comes from a shorter spread of time that is near T.S. Eliot but captures the essence of British Colonialism exceptionally by using the isolation of his intentions as a tool for guilt. This work can be seen as a protest against Imperialism, as it creates an ironic paradox of colonialism by allowing the colonial propriety to coerce to colonizer to act barbarously. This helps to enhance the theme by using the narrator to perform a role to please those whom he's oppressed.
This irony shows that the narrator loses a sense of self-isolating his mind when coming in confrontation with the elephant as the overwhelming feeling of an audience looking upon his decision drowns his will power and motives. This ponders the question of the narrator deciding to kill the elephant in defense of the people, or in fear of giving the impression of being a coward and a fool which shows his the isolation of himself as he is only thinking of the reaction of others rather than the humanity behind murdering an animal. In contrast to Prufrock, Eliot describes a dark world around him that he is fully aware of that makes him question his identity on if it even matters as he's portrayed as a pawn within a world filled with expectation.
On the other hand, Orwell uses the theme of the isolation of identity to help create a statement around imperialism and how the example of shooting an elephant shows the fear of losing power to humiliation which results in the narrator to lose his original identity during the shooting of the elephant to please the public that he belittled to assert his imperialistic dominance. The irony of fearing to be a coward within the hands of absolute power only shows the cowardliness of the oppressor which helps build the statement against imperialism. Orwell uses the theme as a statement against imperialism, like a political movement. Throughout the world of modernism which is the main lens of T.S. Eliot and George Orwell comes many different perspectives once they put their empathy within other time periods to help showcase the development of the theme of isolation of identity within British Literature.
As the loss of one's self-identity and reflection to circumstance of a situation has been a recurring motif within the world of literature, as the modernist era takes it to describe a sense of ego death, the Anglican era describes it as a way to find spirituality and guidance and lastly the imperialist era describes it as a form of protest against the real cowardliness of those oppressing.
In conclusion, the development of the theme of isolation of identity has changed over the course of many time periods in British Literature as its evolution ranges from being connected to the negative aspects of humanity to try to find the purest forms of humanity.