In Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited”’, Hemingway’s “Snows of Kilimanjaro”, and O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night” each protagonist in the story has some level of the feeling of isolation. The authors use these characters to express different modernist view. The modernist view can be the concept of the unconscious. Modernism was popular in the twentieth century; many authors used this style to express their creative views to society. This may have alienated some authors from the mainstreams. Each of these stories looks into the life of a character and shows the thinking and struggles within the self the characters have to deal with and overcome. These artists followed their creative impulses to tell a specific story of isolation and struggle. These three stories show each character looking on different parts of their lives and reminiscing of different events that have shaped them or lead them into the places they are, and also shows the isolation that leads them to think about death and loneliness.
In “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” O’Neill paints the picture of Edmund as the mediator to the rest of his family and later he becomes the victim of his father’s money pinching. The entire family looks at their pasts over the span of one day and reminisces about earlier days that have led them to places they are in the present. There are some things in the family’s past that cannot be forgotten. Mary says at one point “The past is the present, isn’t it? It’s the future, too,” (437). She believes the past cannot be forgotten. She expresses that people are slaves to their past and can never escape it. The same issue is found in appears in “Babylon Revisited” and “Snows of Kilimanjaro”. These men are slaves to their past as well. Charles in “Babylon Revisited” cannot escape the fight he had with his wife in his past, although he is working very hard to right the wrong and turn his life around. Harry in “Snows of Kilimanjaro” thinks that his past was a time when he was successful, but he made choices that put him in his sour position. Each story shows the alienation slowly progressing of each individual from the people and society around them.
With alienation of the individual come loneliness and then thoughts and fantasies of death and such. The isolation becomes the life of the character. O’Neill creates social and physical isolation for Edmund. He is socially isolated from his family. He is not like any person in his family. He was poor, alone, and isolated on one of his travels and tried to commit suicide. He is a very lonely character; he is struggling with an illness that will cause him to be physically isolated and quarantined from everyone. Edmund says to his father, “Everything looked and sounded unreal. Nothing was what it is. That’s what I wanted—to be alone with myself in another world where truth is untrue and life can hide from itself,” (457). Edmund is explaining his walk alone in the fog. He is walking alone in the cold despite the illness he has and getting sicker. He can think and be himself in his own world or the world he is a part of in his isolation. His isolation leads him to his thoughts of death. It may seem morbid, but in Modernism this is just the creative struggle and the sense of self of the character coming out of O’Neill’s writing.
The isolation Charles feels is from his family. His sister-in-law is fighting to keep his daughter from him. His past once again comes to be a problem for his future. He has worked diligently to correct his past for the betterment of his and his daughter’s lives. He still has many obstacles to overcome. He also tries to distant himself from the acquaintances he once had during his parting days when he made most of his mistakes. He still struggles with drinking and still does not spend near enough time with his daughter. This leaves him a very lonely man. Charles also struggles with trying to keep calm and collected during his talks with his sister-in-law and the run-around she continues to give him.
Though he tries hard to keep everything under control, it becomes obvious he could lose control at any time. He is in a very fragile state of mind and is becoming more fragile after every visit to his daughter. He feels his life getting very close to breaking again. He is battling the denials from his sister-in-law inside himself and is very alone in the situation. He sometimes thinks back on his wife and what she would think about the way he is turning his life and the hard time he is having. He is sitting at a bar near the end of his story and says to himself: “he was absolutely sure Helen wouldn’t have wanted him to be so alone,” (689). He feels betrayed and hurt and he is forced to be isolated from his daughter. Fitzgerald was a writer of The Lost Generation. It is said this story very closely relates to the real life situations of Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald uses Charles to express his feelings of isolation and looks back on his own life and struggles during the twenties.
Like Fitzgerald, Hemingway is a Lost Generation author. Though his works resemble his work closely, he has always stated that his stories are just that, stories. Harry in “Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a womanizer as he would go to bed quickly with any woman. He is in a new relationship with a wealthy woman. He is a former writer and he blames his new girlfriend’s money for his lack of willingness to work, he has become very lazy. He has become disconnected from his former self. “…she had built herself a new life and he traded away what remained of his old life./ He had traded it for security, for comfort too, there was no denying that and for what else? He did not know,” (832). He had become isolated from the person he once was. He was starting to become a lot like his gangrened leg; callused, hard, and cold. His life was starting to become rotten much like his leg as well. His life had become stagnant and as a result so had he as a person. Harry had always done just what he wanted and he fund someone that had the money to allow him to do it and support him and he wanted something different. He felt his life had been wasted. Hemingway creates an alienation of Harry from his former self.
The authors writing from the Modernist view express a lot of alienation from society and less on nature and historic events. The Modernist view allows authors to express different creative senses of themselves or the self within the character in their stories. The characters are living in the twenties in most stories, which was avery exciting and vibrant time to live and these characters are made to become isolated and become lonely and fantasize about thoughts of death.