Alone In A Crowded Room Essay

965 words - 4 pages

American Literature March 31, 2002 Alone in a Crowded Room The animals of the Earth have their caves, and the birds of the sky have nests, but humans have no place to rest their heads (Bible, Jesus). It seems to be a trait of humanity to try to fit in and gain acceptance. This desire then, logically, comes from feelings that we do not fit into we do not fit into a particular place. Furthermore, it is this ingrained feeling that has shaped social behavior since the beginning. The desire to be a part of a group is contrasted by a need for freedom and independence. And yet, by definition, to be independent is to be on ones own. A feeling of confusion arises as one finds hints of loneliness in freedom, and questions how much the security of the group actually improves their life. The result is, to one extent or another, a feeling of alienation; as though "we are not really at home in our interpreted world" (Rilke, Duino Elegies). This feeling is well examined by the Modernist writers Wharton and Elliot; who, though they take different starting points, arrive at the same conclusion: we are indeed, alone. In Wharton's story, "The Valley of Childish Things," the lead character is a now-grown woman who is ostracized for her maturation. In the story, a young girl of The Valley embarks on a journey to the "Tableland" (i.e. The Grown-Up world) in search of experience and growth. After years of working she returns to The Valley with new knowledge and information that she hopes will help her friends and improve their lives. On her way back, she meets a man whom she knew as a child and fine that he has also matured and is returning with similar hopes for The Valley. When they return, however, she realizes a startling fact: the children she left all those years ago haven't grown up at all - nor do they have any intention to do so. When she tries to talk to them and teach them, they run away from her and block her out. As a last resort, she seeks out the man she entered The Valley with, only to find that he has forsaken his ambitions and learned nature and focused instead on charming a pretty young girl. Alienation is caused here because the group is threatened by the insecurity associated with change - regardless of the good or bad nature of those changes. It is here that Wharton criticizes society's desire to maintain a sense of security through stubborn indifference to change, by using a "it's the way it's always been" attitude. Wharton goes on to show how the nonconformist is further segregated, when she is judged by traditional standards of role and position....

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