How do age/generational differences play a role in the concept of alienation in the texts ‘Miss Brill’, and ‘A Clean Well-Lighted Place’?
Age or generational differences come with different behavioral characteristics among humans. Apparently, the way a 15-year-old boy reacts to a situation can never be compared to the way a 50-year-old man may react to the same situation. This difference may be as a result of one’s perspective on a situation or the level of maturity of thought. It is also evident that age gaps may result to different likes and dislikes among individuals. The old may treasure quite moments more than the young, while the young may find partying more fun than the old. In the two articles, ‘Miss Brill’ and ‘A Clean Well-Lighted Place’, different generations seem to enjoy different aspects of life. However, the generational gap seems to play a huge role in the concept of alienation in the stories.
In ‘Miss Brill’, the concept of alienation arises when the main character, Miss Brill, appears to notice every single interaction among the people around her. Her keen observation tends to reveal a clear distinction between individuals who watch games from the stands as well as those participating on the field. The people in the stands appear to be lonely and old while the ones on the field are very active and lively. As much as Miss Brill notices such differences, it is evident from the reader’s perspective that she suffers loneliness too. She tends to have a special spot in the stands for every Sunday afternoons so that she can watch the games comfortably (Mansfield, 1920). This reveals that she finds it difficult to explore the field, possibly due to her age and inability to accept change. As she reads newspapers to the old man, she tends to imagine him asking her whether she has been an actress. She visualizes herself answering him and wishes for such moments. She seems to be lacking someone to share her life experiences with to an extent that she craves for someone to ask her more about her life.
In ‘A Clean Well-lighted place’, the old man in the bar appears to be moving fast towards mortality. He tends to find a way out of his loneliness by trying to take away his life. According to Hemmingway, loneliness increases with advancement in age. Instead of mingling with other people in the bar, or going home to spend time with his loved ones, the old man sits in ‘the shadow of the leaves’ late in the night taking his Brandy (Hemingway, 1990). One of the waiters, who appears young in age becomes impatient and insists on going home to sleep. He finds no reason for staying up late as he awaits the old man to finish his drink. With this, it is clear that the young waiter has people to go home to and enjoy life with. He is not, in any way suffering from loneliness like the old deaf man. It appears that the older the person the more alienated they become. Despite the claim that wisdom comes with age, it is also evident that loneliness tags along with it.
In conclusion, alienation appears to affect the older generation more than the young persons. From the two stories, Miss Brill and the old deaf man suffer from loneliness and spend their years in isolation. Miss Brill spends his Sunday afternoons at a special spot in the field watching games while the old man spends his evenings in a special corner of the bar. Both of them do not find pleasure in life.
Hemingway, E. (1990). A Clean Well-Lighted Place. NY: Creative Education.
Mansfield, K. (1920). Miss Brill. Wellington: Katherine Mansfield Society.