Heart of Darkness

Alienation: A Modernist Theme

The modernist movement of the early twentieth century drastically changed the way that art and literature were perceived in western culture. The themes expressed in modernism are perhaps some of the most diverse, disturbing and difficult to understand. One of the principal themes expressed in modernist literature is alienation; this motif can be found in James Joyce's story "The Dead", T.S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land, and Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness. Each piece evokes the idea or feeling of alienation in a unique way.

James Joyce's "The Dead" is a short story which presents the theme of alienation primarily through the central character: Gabriel Conroy. Gabriel's attendance at a Christmas party hosted by his aunts is coupled with a feeling of isolation and revulsion for social activities. Gabriel longs to escape the company of the people at the party; he yearns to go outside in the cold and walk beside the river instead of socializing with those inside (Joyce 2355). Gabriel is socially alienated because of his "paralysis of will, energy and imagination" (Stevenson 49). This is especially evident in his failed attempts to connect meaningfully with Lily, Miss Ivors,...

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