An unavoidable downside to writing a lot, is that you do have to spend a big bulk of your time by yourself.
It’s just the unseen boringness of bashing out a quality article – no exaggeration majority of my time I’m in the basement of the library typing like a boss and being a wee bit territorial about the aisle I sit in (it’s my spot MOTHERFUCKERS I’ve earnt it!!! Do you think my ass shadow just put itself there hmmmm???).
Don’t get me wrong it’s all worth it in the end, seeing something you’ve written out there looking all pretty. But too much isolation can take its toll on your sanity. It gets lonely, plus it kinda kills the possibility of doing one of those a photo for a year challenges (Day 105 – a slightly different angle of this bit of the basement!!! #yolo)
Anyway so it’s got me thinking of fictional characters who’ve found themselves facing severe social seclusion. Here are three examples to help ease any insecurities about you own real feelings of isolation.
Jane Erye (Charlotte Brontë, 1847) *spoilers
Literary analyses frequently credit the timeless quality of Jane Eyre to the relatable nature of Jane Eyre’s character. In fact early readers, when the novel was first published, initially presumed that it was a true story because the book’s subtitle was ‘An Autobiography’.
And while finding yourself working in a manor where the Master’s secret, hidden first wife is locked up in the attic (the name Bertha really has died out eh?), isn’t exactly one of those hugely relatable experiences – the extreme loneliness and exclusion Jane faces throughout her early childhood is poignant because it feels like realistic rejection.
In contrast, although we never hear Bertha Mason’s perspective in Jane Eyre, she is another great – albeit more dramatic, example of fictional isolation.
Locked in Thornfield Hall’s attic for her heritary madness, the reader only really has Rochester’s word that her mental descent occurred before her confinement. And given there’s an actual scene where Rochester pretends he’s an elderly woman and starts giving guests in his house phoney psychic readings (perfectly sober too I might add) I don’t know if I completely trust his ability to spot irregular behaviour.
The Yellow Wallpaper (Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1892)
This classic American short story, of an unnamed woman’s experience of postpartum depression and consequently the commonly prescribed ‘rest cure’, gives a facinating impression on the history of treating mental illness. Additionally, as an underlying commentary by Gilman, on the correlation between women being diagnosed with mental illness and their place in a patriarchal society, The Yellow Wallpaper is an incredibly useful historical resource within feminism.
To quickly summarise it, following the birth of her child the unnamed protagonist has been diagnosed by her physician husband John, with showing symptoms of hysteria. To aid her recovery they have rented an old mansion and she is confined to a room with bars on the windows and decaying yellow wallpaper. The complete absence of any kind of stimulus causes her to see a trapped woman in the wallpaper as she decends further into psychosis.
Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
As a piece of early science fiction, first time readers tend to go into Frankenstein expecting horror, and while you do get that there are much stronger themes of rejection and loneliness driving Frankenstein’s monster’s actions.
Created by a scientist who becomes obsessed with perpetuating life, Victor Frankenstein, the monster only swears revenge on his creator after facing ostracism from everybody he’s been in contact with – including Frankenstein who is immediately repulsed by his creation and flees, leaving the creature to fend for himself.
The saddest part of the monster’s lonely existence though is, after months of secretly living in an abandoned structure, and learning how to communicate by listening to the family in the adjoining cottage, his hopes of becoming their friend is shattered when they do eventually see him and run away in terror. Setting their cottage on fire in anger though might not have been the best way to demonstrate how they were wrong to judge you on your appearance.