CMLT102w First Paper





CMLT102w First Paper

Indeed, in a society that values extroversion and the establishment of individual relationships, the worst fear that a person could bear involves alienation. Alienation imposes strong effects especially in terms of connecting with different people. Based on the current milieu, people view meaningful relationships as correspondent to happiness. Therefore, occurrences such as estrangement can lead victims to a period of depression, self-pity and death. Nonetheless, in accordance to the accounts of William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad and al-Tayyib Salih, it is evident that alienation is not only a force that affects the contemporary society; rather, it progresses over time. Accordingly, Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Salih’s Season of Migration to the North provide considerable depictions of estrangement especially after the era of colonization. The personas within the books are victims of their settings and irrespective of their position in the society; they are all vulnerable to the experiences of the unfortunate results of alienation. Therefore, in relation to the characters, the books illustrate the ways in which this force materializes regardless of different settings and characters.

Overview of the Novels

In overview, As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, focuses specifically on the narrations of 15 disparate characters in more than 59 chapters. Much of the personal accounts within the book delve deeply into the demise of Addie Bundren and the journey as well as incentives that her family exudes in order to live to her wishes of undergoing burying in the township of Jefferson. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness further embarks on the utilization of narration in order to elucidate the fictitious events encompassing the main characters. Accordingly, the novel provides an account of the events that facilitated the appointment of Charles Marlow as a captain of an ivory business firm’s river-steamboat. al-Tayyib Salih’s Season of Migration further delves into the use of first hand narration by highlighting the events surrounding the character, Mustafa Sa’eed as he exemplifies his journey from his village in Sudan to the European land, primarily, England.

Concerns Regarding the Determination of Alienation

From the start, the element of narration clearly defines the concept of estrangement as an imperative theme in the set of the books. In each of the book, each main character provides a detailed description of their different experiences based on the journeys they engage in from their homelands to disparate and foreign regions. However, narration does not solely provide intricate detail regarding the force of alienation in the triad of novels. Foremost, it is virtually impossible to examine accounts of first-person language. This is because the accounts highlighted assert this. Hence, in this case, generalization functions positively as a precursor of the theme under discussion. Moreover, the experiences that the narrators go through are different based on factors such as interaction and disparities with other characters within the books. Therefore, it is more appropriate to focus on two passages that reveal the consistency of alienation in each of the aforementioned novel.

The Passages in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying

It is possible to view instances that represent alienation especially among different characters in As I Lay Dying. A definite set of members of the Bundren family experience estrangement from the family collectively. In addition to this, others also face a similar reaction from the encompassing community. Illustrating this occurrence, Darl Bundren presents a perfect illustration of alienation and its imposition on the self and the surrounding society. Even though this particular character begins as the most sensible of the family members, the reader notices that he possesses eerie capabilities that motivate his relatives and neighbors to shun him. From the book, Darl has considerable intuition that allows him to notice a range of objects and incidences that are supposed to be secretive. Because of this, his siblings describe him as an outlandish and disturbing individual.

One illustration of this is in relation to the manner he attempts to understand his mother’s death. Based on the language he uses, the reader further perceives Darl as a strange individual. The death of Addie Bundren, for Darl, undergoes construction because of his utilization of symbolic language in order to deal with the death of his mother. The words that he utilizes constitute representations of missing things that enable him to reorganize a novel sense of his existence, his experience as well as his association with the environment. For instance, in this passage, Darl attempts to make sense of his mother’s death in his conversation with Vardaman.

“Jewel’s mother is a horse”, Darl said.

“Then mine can be a fish, can’t it, Darl?” I said…

“Then what is your ma, Darl?” I said.

“I haven’t got ere one,” Darl said. “Because if I had one, it was. And if it was, it can’t be is. Can it?” (Faulkner 128)

From this passage, Darl turns a simple conversation into an elucidation of his mother’s existence as well as his own subsistence. The connection of this particular question by Darl using “was” against “is” enables him to make sense of the overly convoluted issue of death and reality. Furthermore, the bizarre way in which this exchange occurs indicates the alienation that Darl seems to experience based on the strange ways and thoughts he advances to his family members in order to explain complex things.

More evidence of alienation based on the character of Darl is present in the following passage. Connecting it to the first passage, this particular character attempts to make sense of existence by utilizing words, which illustrate the impositions of estrangement:

“The river itself is not a hundred yards across, and pa and Vernon and Vardaman and Dewey Dell are the only things in sight…as though we had reached the place where the motion of the wasted world accelerates just before the final precipice. Yet they appear dwarfed. It is as though the space between us were time: an irrevocable quality. It is as though time, no longer running straight before us in a diminishing line, now runs parallel between us like a looping string…The mules stand, their forequarters already sloped a little, their rumps high…their gaze sweeps across us with in their eyes a wild, sad, profound and despairing quality as though they had already seen in the thick water the shape of the disaster which they could not speak and we could not see” (Faulkner 146-147).

The words of alienation such as the notion “like” within the similes, operates as a function connecting and therefore emphasizing the distance amid the comparisons. This does not solely presume the exploratory and hesitant trait of Darl’s assertions. It also illustrates his estrangement from his own self as well as his isolation from the society encompassing him. In synopsis, both passages represent alienation based on the manner they connect Darl’s efforts to make sense of the elements of life and the existence of human beings. Furthermore, by attempting to exemplify complexities such as death and continuance, Darl utilizes words that further depict his alienation from himself and the rest of the world.

The Passages in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Unlike the prevalence of alienation in Faulkner’s novel due to the nature of several characters, Heart of Darkness accentuates this concept for a single persona, Charles Marlow. Based on his voyage from England to Congo, which he describes as the “heart of darkness”, Marlow describes the negative impositions that imperialism has posed especially on most African societies. Nonetheless, even though he experiences valid sentiments for African people, he cannot fully integrate into such communities based on his physiological affinity towards the Western culture. Hence, his newly founded ideals against imperialism and genetic predispositions position him against both the victims and the colonialists thus forcing him to experience alienation considerably.

In this first passage, Conrad condemns the force of imperialism and thus, establishes an opposing stance against people of similar skin to his. The main issue evident within this section involves the complexity of comprehending the society away from the self. Accordingly, Conrad, in his attempt to make sense of colonialism, finds it simpler to alienate himself from the act rather than support it or engage in it:

“They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force – nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a grand scale, and men going at it blind – as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest for the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only” (Conrad 4-5).

From this, Conrad, through Marlow, attempts to understand the nature of imperialism by exposing the actions undertaken by the colonialists as they subdued African lands. In addition to this, the author’s description of the concept allows the reader to view it as a hypocritical vice aimed at exploiting the weak due to the availability of power. However, towards the end, Conrad finds much it easier to try and not understand imperialism based on its complex and duplicitous nature. Hence, his words represent a digression towards alienation based on the actuality that he finds it difficult to attempt and understand imperialism and the general society away from his self.

Even though Marlow seems adrift from the practices of his European relatives, he, nonetheless, alienates himself from the culture of the native villagers. Foremost, he views the Africans as absurd. Indeed, he does not seem to understand how such people can be willing to undergo cruelty and hardship within their own homes. In as much as he sees this as absurd, Marlow dissociates himself further by viewing the insanity of the Africans as a primitive aspect:

“It was unearthly, and the men were – No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it – the suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity – like yours – the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you – you so remote from the night of the first ages – could comprehend. And why not?” (Conrad 32).

In connection, both passages represent the character’s isolation from his natural heritage as well as his discovered community. Marlow believes that as cruel as imperialism is, it is still insane for a person undergoing the experiences of this particular force to succumb to it without resistance. Based on the hypocritical nature of the colonialists and the absurdity of the natives, Marlow experiences a self-imposed alienation based on his refusal to understand the outside world.

The Passages in Salih’s Season of Migration to the North

The experiences undertaken by Marlow seem to correspond considerably to the events faced by Mustafa Sa’eed as Salih’s protagonist. In correspondence to the aforementioned narrative, Season also details the protagonist’s attempts to fit in within the foreign society. However, in this case, the narrator actually changes from an African setting to a European one based on his voyage from his Sudanese village to the country of England. Certain instances represent alienation in the narrative. In this initial passage, Sa’eed describes estrangement in accordance to the way he fails to fit in within the English culture based on his cultural deficiencies:

“The language, though, which I now heard for the first time is not like the language I had learnt at school. These are living voices and have another ring. My mind was like a keen knife. But the language is not my language; I had learnt to be eloquent in it through perseverance” (Salih 28-29).

Referring to this section, the reader perceives the force of estrangement based on the isolation that the narrator experiences as an outcome of his physiological nature. Additionally, even as he attempts to understand their language, he is still unable to be part of the foreign culture based on the inclination of his language. The following paragraph further emphasizes on alienation by linking itself to the initial one. In this segment, the narrator identifies himself as the “intruder” based on the way he assumes a different cultural and genetic heritage than the ones before him during his trial after he faces incarceration:

“The jurors, too, were a varied bunch of people and included a labourer, a doctor, a farmer, a teacher, a businessman, and an undertaker, with nothing in common between them and me; had I asked one of them to rent me a room in his house he would as likely as not have refused, and were his daughter to tell him she was going to marry this African, he’d have felt that the world was collapsing under his feet. Yet each one of them in that court would rise above himself for the first time in his life, while I had a sort of feeling of superiority towards them, for the ritual was being held primarily because of me; and I, over and above everything else, am a colonizer, I am the intruder whose fate must be decided” (Salih 68).

In connection, both sections illustrate the effect of cultural predispositions on alienation. Indeed, even though the narrator attempts to be part of another culture, he still undergoes harsh treatment and isolation, which is rather similar to imperialism. Because of this, he becomes estranged in a setting that he tries to fit in through peaceful and respectful delegation; an instance dissimilar to colonialism.


To this end, the aspect of isolation is significantly evident in the three novels. Even though the authors set their narratives in different contexts, they still assert evidence of the force based on disparities such as sensibility, cultural as well as physiological disparities. Undeniably, the books, As I Lay Dying, Heart of Darkness and Season of Migration to the North provide credible and critical instances that assess the existence of alienation across wider territorial and intellectual settings.

Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. London: Vintage Classic, 2007. Print.

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York: Vintage Books, 2013. Print.

Salih, al-Tayyib. Season of Migration to the North. New York: New York Review of Books, 2009. Print.


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