A Man On an Island: An expedition for true happiness

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World Literature Essay

Name: Audrey She-Sum Lai

Subject: English A1 Higher Level

Title: A Man On an Island: An expedition for true happiness

        Although the renowned poet John Donne from the Renaissance had pointed out that “no man is an island”, isolation is a part of the quest for true happiness.  It allows us to see how sensual stimuli have diverted our attention from spiritual realization.  Human are indeed connected to one another as a whole.  Yet, no matter how close we are physically, we are the only ones who are accessible to our own mind.  Exploring for the truly happy mind is like a solo on an isolated island.  In the novels One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovichby Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Stranger by Albert Camus, and Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, three men’s expeditions for their true happiness on their isolated islands are revealed.  The nature of their isolation, the process of their realization, and their achievement of happiness are shown in front of our very eyes.

        First, let’s compare the nature of the three protagonists’ isolation.  All three men were on an “island” isolated from the society, in which sensual stimuli like warmth, cigarettes, food and sex were reduced to the minimum.  In ODITLOID, Ivan was a prisoner in a concentration camp in Siberia.  Apart from its remoteness from cities, the camp was surrounded by fencing and barricades and guarded by soldiers.  Such setting made physical freedom impossible.  Siberia was very cold and snowed heavily in winter.  However, the prisoners were not allowed any extra clothing and there was no such thing as heat system.  Physical warmth, thus, was a privilege.  Psychological warmth was of virtual non-existence as well.  The prisoners did not dare to expect any favors without a favor in return.  An example would be when Ivan offered to queue up for Markovich, in return for the food in his package.  There was simply no altruism in the camp.  One could only depend on oneself to survive.  Food rations were meager.  There were no women in the camp, either, which made sex impossible.  Even cigarettes were rare.  In the cold remote camp, sensual stimuli being viewed as necessities in our world become legendary luxuries.

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Meursault’s “island” in The Stranger was also in isolation.  His prison cell was dark, cold and empty except his presence.  He did not have the freedom to choose the choice of visitors.  Even if he got to see anyone, he could only see, with not much body contact.  An example would be when Marie visited him.  This made sex impossible for Meursault.  There were no cigarettes in the cell that he had given up smoking.  Choice of food was no longer available because he had lost that privilege.  Like Ivan, Meursault’s right to these goods was deprived, living in an ...

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