Saturday, June 4, 2011

Spiritual Despair and Isolation

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Both “Eleanor Rigby” and “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” demonstrate a feeling of


isolation in the modern age. They both show the depression and loneliness felt when people


are isolated from one another. But, more specifically these pieces of literature demonstrate


an alienation from God and the despair which follows. Through religious references and the


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repetition of the idea of loneliness both pieces of literature examine the problem of spiritual


despair and a lack of faith even though they differ in structure and degrees to which the


characters are isolated.


Spiritual despair and a lack of faith in God is shown in both pieces of literature


through religious references which are directly associated with a feeling of nothingness and


isolation. In Hemingway’s story, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”, an old man tries to commit


suicide out of despair. The attempted act of suicide not only demonstrates his lack of self


worth but also demonstrates from a religious view his extreme spiritual emptiness and lack of


faith in God. Also, as a religious reference his niece cut him down after he hanged himself in


“fear for his soul” (). In this story the waiter is also afraid of the isolation and emptiness in


his life. As he recites the Lord’s Prayer he replaces all religious terms with the word “nada”


which means nothing. His loss of faith in God is the direct cause of his spiritual void and


feelings of emptiness or nothingness. In comparison, Lennon and McCartney’s ballad,


“Eleanor Rigby”, also refers to religion and lack thereof. “All the lonely people” do not know


“where they all belong” due to a lack of faith in God (1-1). But, even those who are not


alone in a spiritual context are isolated from others. For example, Father McKenzie sits at the


church alone at night and Eleanor Rigby dies but no one comes to the funeral.


Repetition of words in the two pieces of literature also demonstrate the spiritual


despair and lack of faith in modern society by emphasizing the ideal of loneliness. In Lennon


and McCartney’s ballad the word “lonely” is repeated several times in the refrain in the form


of a question. It states, “All the lonely people/ where do they all some from?/all the lonely


people/ where do they all belong?”(10-1). This suggests that these people would not be


lonely if they had faith in God because their spiritual void would be filled. In comparison,


Hemingway’s story repeats the word “nada” in the Lord’s Prayer. The repetition of the idea of


nothingness in the spiritual context shows a lack of faith in God as well as the spiritual void


felt by the waiter.


In contrast, the two pieces of literature differ in structure and degree of isolation of


characters while both still show the problem of spiritual despair and lack of faith. “Eleanor


Rigby” is a ballad whereas “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is a short story. Also, Lennon and


McCartney’s ballad shows a greater degree of isolation than Hemingway’s short story. In


Lennon and McCartney’s ballad all the people are lonely and isolated including those who


have faith in God. In contrast, Hemingway’s short story both the old man and the waiter are


lonely and spiritually void and yet they are not completely isolated. The old man still has his


dignity and niece whereas the waiter still has his wife to go home to.


Both “Eleanor Rigby” and “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” illustrate, to some degree the


problems of spiritual despair and a lack of faith in our modern society. Through religious


context and repetition both texts instill the idea of loneliness and isolation in the reader.


But, contrasts in structure as well as the degree of which the characters are isolated make the


texts different. The lack of faith in God as well as in life causes these characters to feel and


emptiness within themselves as well as feelings of despair.


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