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Examine the theme of loneliness and isolation in M.R James stories

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Introduction

Examine the theme of loneliness and isolation in M.R James' stories In the early 20th Century, the Edwardian era was coming to an end, but the wealth and affluence of the upper classes still remained. With very little contact with the outside world, the rich became complacent and arrogant. Political tension was increasing in Europe, but the well-off took little notice, concerned exclusively in their own affairs. With plenty of time on their hands, people could indulge in the study of science, or spend long periods of time shut up in antiquarian libraries, devoted to furthering their intellectual prowess and pride and becoming self reliant. When not in the library, they had the time to go off on private walks, do independent field research, or any other solitary pursuit, as their pride meant that they did not need anyone for guidance. The affluent were slowly becoming less religious, as their new found passion for science led them to rationalise everything and deny spiritual existence, and their prosperity meant that there was little to look forward to in the afterlife. This also meant that certain people no longer had God to turn to, further isolating themselves. ...read more.

Middle

Another of M.R James' stories which incorporates the theme of loneliness and isolation is "Oh whistle and I'll come to you my lad". Parkins, a university professor and the main character in the story, stays by himself at the Globe Inn in a double bedroom for a week, to improve his golf- he is alone in a foreign place, a common technique used to isolate the main character. Putting them in an unfamiliar environment, and presenting them with unforeseen circumstances, causes them to feel their isolation more acutely. Parkins is also similar to many of M.R James' main characters, in that his intellectual pride leads him to believe that he can handle any situation by himself, encouraging him to isolate himself from familiar surroundings. Like other of M.R James characters, Parkins is self-assured and independent, with a firm belief of his ability to cope in any situation, and rationalise the irrational. As he himself asserts, "I am, in fact, a convinced disbeliever in what is called the "supernatural"". Therefore, he can confidently stay in a double room alone, or walk along a beach followed by a strange figure, and be sure that no paranormal events will occur, or if they do, there is a logical and rational explanation which will permit him to escape from any unforeseen situation. ...read more.

Conclusion

Another element of suspense that M.R James gains from isolating his characters, is dramatic irony. When Mr Anderson enters the room and suspects it is smaller, the fact that he is alone enables him to put it down to his natural suspicions, and he is therefore able to dismiss the thought. However, the reader knows that something is amiss, and that Mr Anderson is suspicious, but does not allow himself to act on it, dismissing it due to his intellectual pride. This builds the tense atmosphere further. When he is alone, Mr Anderson cannot confirm his observations: he doubts himself and dismisses suspicions, becoming more susceptible to paranormal events, because he is oblivious of the imminent peril and cannot decide what to do, effectively heightening the suspense. In conclusion, M.R James uses the theme of loneliness and isolation as an effective technique to create suspense, develop a sinister atmosphere and create shocking supernatural encounters. He does this by choosing a specific type of main character, who, thanks to their financial position, can become independent socially, and emotionally. By isolating the main characters, M.R James makes them especially vulnerable, because not only there is no one there to help them, but also their inherent intellectual pride renders them helpless. ...read more.

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