Home > Free Essays > Literature > Comparative Literature > Role of Alienation and Isolation in Literature

Role of Alienation and Isolation in Literature Essay

Exclusively available on IvyPanda Available only on IvyPanda
Updated: Feb 14th, 2021


Frankenstein is a novel written by Mary Shelley. The book was published in 1818 and it tries to investigate how knowledge can be used to do good or bad. It also looks at how the uneducated and deprived people are treated in the society as well as how technology affects the society. The novel is about a young scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who is determined to find the secrets of life and how it can be given.

He labors in his laboratory alone and creates a living thing from parts of dead people. His creation is gentle at the start, but after the people start to resent it because of its looks, the monster runs and hides from the society. Its anger drives it to seek revenge on Victor, its creator, and in its quest, it kills his wife, best friend and little brother. It then escapes to the North Pole and Victor pursues it wanting to kill and destroy his creation.

When he catches up with the monster, the monster seriously wounds him. The book ends with the monster accusing the human race of lacking sympathy before it disappears into the sea in an ice craft. The main theme of the book is alienation and isolation of innocent victim. This part of the essay will analyse the theme of alienation and isolation as seen in the three main characters namely Victor Frankenstein, Robert Walton and the Monster.

Victor suffers isolation and alienation throughout his life as can be seen from his childhood, work, society and his family. His goal in life is to answer the question of life and how it can be given. He spends half of his life trying to create a living thing and the other half desperately trying to kill his creation. In the first half he spends time at the university carrying out his experiments, in complete isolation of the society. As a child he was raised in a “perfect” family as an only child. He was fascinated with science and began to educate himself. He states that:

I was, to a great degree, self taught with regard to my favorite studies. My father was not scientific, and I was left to struggle with a child’s blindness, added to a student’s thirst to learn (Shelley 34).

He leaves his family at a tender age, but this does not seem to affect him. He does not communicate with his family, and dedicates his time studying. He is not bothered by being alone without friends. From the book a reader can see that Victor chooses to be alone and his only friend is Clerval. This friendship is based on terms set by Victor. Even when his experiments fail he does not tell Clerval, but chooses to keep to himself.

Other examples of his isolation is when he chooses to set up his laboratory, “in solitary chamber, or rather cell, at top of the house” (Shelley 37). He also isolates himself because of his work and experiments, “I must absent myself from all I loved while thus employed. Once commenced, it would quickly be achieved, and I might be restored to my family in peace and happiness ” (Shelley 98). After he creates the monster he isolates himself from the society as he tries to hide the secret (Shelley).

Isolation and alienation can also be seen in the character of the monster. Unlike Victor it does not choose to alienate itself, but is forced by the society to run and isolate itself. The creature wants to fit in the society, but the people hate it because of its hideous looks. The first instance of isolation the creature suffers is after its creation, Victor looks at his creation and runs away,

unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created. I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bedchamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep (Shelley 99).

The second isolation act happens when the creature comes into contact with the villagers who flee and attack it. The people are scared of the creature and chase it away. It approaches a family wanting to be part of it, but they attack and chase it away. From the family the creature learns that though it has human feelings it does not fit in the society. The attempts it makes to feel loved are shattered and this makes it to resent the society. When Victor refuses to create a spouse for the creature it seeks revenge and kills his wife.

Robert Walton represents both the creature and Victor. Like Victor, he chooses to isolate himself from the society, but like the creature, he yearns to be a part of the society and to be accepted. Unlike Victor, he is capable of understanding the implications of his choices. When the crew wants to turn back and return home during the expedition, he is willing to cancel the trip unlike Victor who would not let anything stand in his way. As a young child, he lived in isolation and he was self-taught just like Victor. His desire to go on an expedition is so he could be isolated from things in his life. During the expedition he mises his sister and he constantly communicates with her letters (Shelley).

Alienation and Isolation in Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Height is a novel written by Emily Bronte. The novel is set on the mystic and gloomy town of Yorkshire during the 19th century. In 1801, Mr. Lockwood rents a house from Heathcliff in Yorkshire, Northern England. After arriving, he pays a visit to Mr. Heathcliff who was living in a remote house popularly known as “Wuthering Heights.” He notes that the people living in the house were strange.

His host, Mr. Heathcliff, has the qualities of a gentleman, but the way he acted suggested otherwise. He also notes that the reserved mistress in the house is a young girl barely out of her teenage, and a young man he sees in the house appears to be a member of the family, but dressed and talked like a servant. After there is a heavy snowstorm, Mr. Lockwood is forced to spend the night in the house. He is given an unused chamber to sleep in. in the chamber he finds books and drawings left by woman who we later come to learn was Catherine. After he falls asleep, he sees Catherine in form of a ghost in his nightmare.

He sees her trying to enter the room through the window and this causes him to spend the rest of the night awake. At dawn, Mr. Lockwood is escorted to his new house by his landlord, Mr. Heathcliff. After the landlord leaves, Mr. Lockwood asks his Ellen Dean who was working for him to tell him the story of Wuthering Heights. Ellen obliges and Mr. Lockwood writes in his diary as she narrates her story. The book shows alienation and isolation of various characters. This part of the essay will look at alienation and isolation as depicted through various characters and situations presented in the novel.

The isolated location of Wuthering Height shows the isolation of the people living in the house from the rest of the society. Mr. Lockwood brings attention to the isolation in his first paragraph when he writes, “This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society. A perfect misanthropist’s heaven: and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us” (Brontë 56).

The people living in Wuthering Heights are isolated from the society; they include Cathy, Isabella, Hindley and Heathcliff. Mr. Heathcliffs is described as a moody man who loves being alone. In the book, his mood is compared to that of the region, “He was leaning against the ledge of an open lattice, but not looking out: his face was turned to the interior gloom. The fire had smoldered to ashes; the room was filled with the damp, mild air of the cloudy evening; and so still that not only the murmur of the beck [stream] down Gimmerton was distinguishable, but its ripples and it’s gurgling over the pebbles, or through the large stones which it could not cover” (Brontë 103).

In the book, we learn that Heathcliff had suffered isolation as an orphan when he lived in Liverpool. He was isolated because of his dark skin. When Mr. Earnshaw took him to Weathering Heights, he was also alienated and he underwent a lot of suffering. His antisocial behavior makes him to act like n animal and according to Isabella’s letter to Ellen she asks, Is Mr. Heathcliff a man? And if so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil?” (Brontë 121).

This is after he assists in destroying Hindley, abducts both Cathy and Nelly, and finally abuses Isabella and Hareton. His antisocial behavior gets to a point where it causes undeserving pain to his wife. A reader of the book can see his dark side and inability to be compassionate. In the beginning, Heathcliff is full of resentment, but his pain and resentment reduces after he makes Cathy his wife. We see him in the story becoming a passionate man whose thoughts are pure, and at one time, we see him staring into the storm searching for Catherine (Brontë).

Catherine also suffers isolation, but it is her own choice. She chooses to isolate and alienate herself from her first love Heathcliff. Although they were deep in love with each other, she becomes lovers with Edgar. She wanted to live a life full of plenty and join the elites of the society. Edgar could offer her all this, while the only thing that Heathcliff could offer was love (Brontë)

Middlemarch and how women are represented in the novel

The novel Middlemarch: A study of Provisional Life, is written by Mary Anne Evans under the pen name George Eliot. The novel is set in a fiction town of Midlands during 1820- 1832. The novel explores many themes, which include the status of women in the society, marriage and its nature, self interest and idealism, politics, education, and hypocrisy. Dorothea Brooke is a rich young woman who engages in activities to help the poor people in her society.

She marries a middle-aged scholar, Edward Casaubon, instead of Sir James Chettam to the dismay of her family. On her honeymoon, she realizes that Casaubon was a cold person, who did to want to support the work of his wife. This sets pace for pace for the novel and it is after this realization by Dorothea we begin to see the various characters and themes unfolding. This part of the essay will look at how women are represented in the novel, their role and attitude expressed towards them.

In the novel, the role of women in the society can be seen through the characters such as Mary Garth, and Harriet Bulstrode. Mary Garth is a hard working person, who supports and encourages Vincy, her fiancée. Vincy is struggling to find an independent career, but Mary Garth stands her ground and vows not to marry Vincy until he is financially stable. This shows that women in the society are supposed to be supportive of their spouses, but at the same time, they should be principled and not let themselves to be controlled by men. Harriet Bulstrode shows that a woman should be loyal to her husband.

When she found the dark past of her husband she did not leave him, but stayed. The husband had always treated her well and she believed he was a good man. During his tribulations she stands by him unlike Rosamund who does not support her husband when faces misfortunes (Eliot).

The novel represents women as victims of the position they hold in the society. This can be seen through Dorothea. She is a niece to a wealthy landowner and this entitles her to pass learning a great deal of things besides the social skills expected of a young woman. She was expected to grow up, marry, bear children, and be a loving and supportive wife. Young girls in the time lived a sheltered life where they were ignorant to many happenings around them.

Dorothea’s lack of experience makes her marry a man who was totally unsuitable for her and when she realizes that she is in love with Will Ladislaw, she sacrifices her money and social status. This gives her the freedom she had been looking for as wife of Edward, a rich man. Another representation of women as victims of their position in the society can be seen through Rosamund who is not only beautiful, but also vain.

She grows up believing that her beauty can get her a rich and handsome husband. She is expected to make or cultivate a good marriage that would guarantee her the financial security she sought. In Tertius Lydgate, she believes she has found her dream husband, but when it becomes apparent to her that he is not as rich as she thought she does not know how to handle the reality. She lacks the skills and experience to live with a poor man and this causes problems in the marriage (Eliot).

North and South and how women are represented in the novel

North and South is a novel written by Elizabeth Gaskell. The book was published in 1855. The story in the novel is set in a fictional town, Milton-Northern, during the industrial era of the country (England).

The protagonist, Margaret Hale, arrives in the town from the South region. She compares the South to paradise and she criticizes industrialization that was taking place in the North. Through her relationship with John Thornton, a mill owner, and Higgins family her view of the region is challenged. The book revolves around her interactions with the surrounding and through her; we can see how women are represented in the book. This part of the book will analyze her relations and character and show the views the society has about women.

The author of the book tackles the issue that affected the society during this period of women and their responsibility in the labor market. Margaret Hale is a strong willed woman who will stand for what is right and is even assaulted trying to defend her “friend” Mr. Thornton. A reader notices that the of all the factory workers there is only one woman Bessy Higgins. This is significant, because it shows that women during the time were confined to doing domestic work rather than involving themselves in the labor market in factories. Bessy Higgins is later forced to leave work owing to a disease she contracts as she worked in the factory.

The appearance of Bessy Higgins as a factory worker and her experiences, shows that the society did not believe in women being able to work in factories and shows the isolation they had to suffer. The general consensus during the time was that women were contributing negatively to the factories and their being in the factory contributed to their moral degradation and that of their children. The women workers were also blamed for the failures in their marriages and disintegration of families. It was expected that the women would not fight for the right to work rather they were supposed to fight not to work, but stay home and take care of their families (Gaskell).

The attack on Margaret Hale by the striking mob shows a reader that the society was apprehensive about women involving themselves in “mens” issues. The mob attacks her because many believe she should not involve herself in things she cannot understand because she is a woman. The next representation of the role of women in the society is when Margaret Hale helps Mr. Thornton during a time his factory was facing closure. Mr. Thornton eventually became Margret hale’s husband and this signifies that women in the period had to cultivate their relationships and had to support their husbands or lovers during times of tribulations (Gaskell).

Works Cited

Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. London: Collins, 1959. Print.

Eliot, George. Middlemarch: a study of provincial life. London: Mundus Publishing, 1926. Print.

Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South. Teddington, Middlesex : Echo Library, 2006. Print.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: or, The modern Prometheus. Boston: New York, N.Y. : Signet Classics, 2000. Print.

This essay on Role of Alienation and Isolation in Literature was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal

Need a custom Essay sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

801 certified writers online

Cite This paper
Select a referencing style:


IvyPanda. (2021, February 14). Role of Alienation and Isolation in Literature. https://ivypanda.com/essays/role-of-alienation-and-isolation-in-literature/


IvyPanda. (2021, February 14). Role of Alienation and Isolation in Literature. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/role-of-alienation-and-isolation-in-literature/

Work Cited

"Role of Alienation and Isolation in Literature." IvyPanda, 14 Feb. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/role-of-alienation-and-isolation-in-literature/.

1. IvyPanda. "Role of Alienation and Isolation in Literature." February 14, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/role-of-alienation-and-isolation-in-literature/.


IvyPanda. "Role of Alienation and Isolation in Literature." February 14, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/role-of-alienation-and-isolation-in-literature/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Role of Alienation and Isolation in Literature." February 14, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/role-of-alienation-and-isolation-in-literature/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Role of Alienation and Isolation in Literature'. 14 February.

Powered by CiteTotal, best referencing tool
More related papers