Isolation is a detrimental state of mind, dangerous not only to the afflicted individual, but also to his or her surrounding community. Extreme solitude breeds warped thought and contempt for oneself and others, leading the withdrawn or contained to a misunderstanding of the universe and a damaged or underdeveloped perspective and psyche. Not only can isolation affect an individual’s physical health, but it can also wreak incredibly serious damage on the mind, altering perceptions of morality, reality, and self-worth. As a modern society, we now observe the startling implications severe isolation has on the minds of everyday people, begetting violent outbursts against innocents, such like the crimes of Ted Kaczynski and James Holmes. More commonly, however, isolation and loneliness will lead to outbursts against oneself, self-inflicted harm, or, in extreme cases, suicide. It is necessary to acknowledge and understand the importance and effect isolation in its many forms creates on humanity as a whole, a topic which has not only been discussed for the past two hundred years, but also written about extensively, represented in books such as The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Knowledge of the composition and framework of isolation is imperative, and each aforementioned novel makes its own persuasive case as to what specific type of isolation causes the most harm; however, social isolation has proved to actuate the greatest amount of misfortune in all aspects. The character Ralph, in the novel The Lord of the Flies, exemplifies a different form of isolation when he is forcibly separated from the rest of society.
Insight into the ramifications and inner workings of forced isolation can be gleaned from the character Ralph in the novel The Lord of the Flies when he is abandoned by his companions on the island and restricted from joining their tribe and shared community. Ralph was set apart as an outcast, someone not allowed into the safety of togetherness and intimacy employed within the other boys’ group. With his only allies dead, Ralph was forced to experience the fight for survival alone, and watch as the other children relied on each other for support and emotional security, whether in the form of communal pig killings, or primordial-esque tribal dances on the other side of a large wall in their cave ‘fort’. This restraint is expressed when Ralph “...knelt among the shadows and felt his isolation bitterly…[Ralph], lying in the darkness, knew he was an outcast… the tribe was dancing… somewhere on the other side of that rocky wall… safe” (Golding 186). Forced to bear fear and the island alone, knowing that there was nothing he could do to change the situation for the better, Ralph feels “bitter”, “isolated”, and like an “outcast” (Golding 186). In this quote lies the most destructive force present in forced isolation— the knowledge that nothing can be done to lessen the severity of the isolation, and the lack of a tangible opponent to place blame on and fight against, leaving only harsh loneliness and self-doubt. This lack of a single enemy is also present in self-inflicted isolation, but with different contributing factors and consequences, which is seen and represented within the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
The novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest offers an understanding of self-inflicted isolation personified by the presumed “deaf and dumb” character, Chief Bromden. The isolation Bromden experiences can largely be attributed to his own lack of confidence. He makes the decision to isolate himself from the conversations, lives, and comfort of others, choosing instead to pretend to be deaf and dumb, incapable of hearing and communication, resigned to an existence of loneliness and self-deprivation. The repercussions of such self-limitation are exhibited when Chief says, “I had to keep acting deaf if I wanted to hear at all… I thought it over, about my being deaf, about the years of not letting on I heard what was said, and I wondered if I could ever act any other way again…” (Kesey 210). Chief Bromden imposed solitude on himself for such a prolonged time, he feared he would never be able to sincerely express himself socially again, and nearly loses the basic capabilities he pretends not to have. Similar to Ralph, Bromden had no single, tangible enemy to defeat or blame for his unhappiness, but unlike his counterpart, Bromden invented an enemy to plot against instead of addressing the harm he was causing himself. This diversion from the truth resulted in terrifying consequences: delusions and hallucinations of all-powerful government organizations like the Combine, whom you could only defeat by staying silent and alone. Despite this, however crippling the loss of skills and frightening nightmares are, hope still rests in those who suffer from self-inflicted isolation. This sentence is such a mess and why do I even try pushkin dostoevsky hemingway honestly what is life messy like my room haha im so hilarious why don't more people like meUnlike the other forms of isolation, the afflicted individual has the power to overcome his or her situation. Chief Bromden, and all others who experience self-isolation, can choose to work toward improving their social standing; they have a choice other than simply brooding against the universe for hurting them and wishing life was better. This is the path Chief Bromden takes, realizing his desire for companionship with the shattering of glass and a leap of faith out of a world of loneliness and paranoia, joining society and grasping his full potential. This potential was obtained through the opportunity to change one’s circumstances; but with the last form of isolation, social isolation, there is an enemy to lay blame on, but nearly no hope of a shift in fortune
There is no better representative of the complete loneliness and alienation that comes with social isolation than the character John in the novel Brave New World. Born in the savage reservation, but belonging to the World State, there truly is nowhere John fits. He is one of a kind, the only human in the entire world with his experiences. John is shunned in the reservation for possessing traits characteristic to a different society with conflicting morals, and ostracized in the World State for the differences and peculiar habits he learned from the ‘savages’. Huxley describes John’s despair at being excluded from a savage ritual by writing, “ All alone, outside the pueblo…The bruises hurt him, the cuts were still bleeding; but it was not for pain that he sobbed; it was because he was all alone, because he had been driven out by them, alone, into this skeleton world of rocks and moonlight” (136). Stuck between two worlds, John has no choice but to escape to his own “skeleton world of rocks and moonlight”, a place occupied only by him, completely isolated and set apart from the rest of the universe.
The extremity of social isolation is expressed through John’s suicide. The social isolation was so severe that he did not fit in anywhere: neither the World State nor the Savage Reservation. Not only did he not belong anywhere in the world, but he also never belonged anywhere in the universe .His existence on Earth was composed of him trying to be something he never could be, desperately trying to relate when there was no one to relate to. Upon realizing this, John considers death. Huxley writes, “[John] was all alone…he looked...into the black shadow of death. He had only to take one step, one little jump…” (138). Eventually, when John fully accepts that there is no one, no place for him, no Juliet and no Verona, he makes the drastic decision to take his own life, ironically, in the solitude of a dilapidated, ignored, and isolated lighthouse, hanging alone, forever by himself. His life was lonely and empty, his death solitary and cold, perpetually falling alone into the blackness that is the universe, never escaping the isolation society subjected him to over the course of his entire existence.
Through analyzing of the novels The Lord of the Flies, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Brave New World, it becomes obvious that the most harmful form of isolation is social isolation. Ralph faces forced isolation, and is given no singular enemy to take his frustration out on, as well as no hope of improving his situation. Chief Bromden experiences self-inflicted isolation, and similarly has no tangible opponent to defeat except the fictional Combine, yet holds within himself the power to overcome his solitude and gain happiness. John, on the other hand, had no one even slightly similar to himself to relate or connect to, resulting in an enduring loneliness and perpetual societal isolation. He died never once feeling loved or a part of something greater than himself or the tragic plays of Shakespeare, proving that social isolation has much more extreme consequences than those of forced or self-inflicted. Through these characters’ experiences and the insight these novels contain into the knowledge of the lonely mind, essential information can be obtained regarding the slightly blurry concept of isolation and what exactly is possible to come of it in a modern society. This knowledge is indispensable as we utilize it to question the problems we face today: soaring suicide rates (particularly among young adults and teenagers), the unknown secrets of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, and the violent outbursts of mass shooters as they tear through our elite and judgmental society in a lonely rage, creating carnage in schools, movie theaters, and hospitals. Each step toward the understanding of our minds without the companionship of others means a step in the direction of progress and prevention; understanding the different forms of isolation and their implications gives humanity a chance to change our dark, lonely future.