Here is the complete Scholarship essay.
‘The subject of writing, for me, is how we manage – if we manage – to live together. That’s central to it.’ (Lauris Edmond)
How relevant is this statement to a range of texts you have studied?
Novels are essentially studies of humanity and thus often deal with core aspects of human society. One such core subject is the importance of community bonds and the overwhelming damage that can occur when an individual becomes isolated from those around them. Three novels that deal with such a theme are The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, Triage by Scott Anderson and 1984 by George Orwell.
The protagonists in these novels are as different as the novels themselves but all share a common flaw – that of mental and physical isolation. Quoyle, brought up by an abusive family and entrapped in an equally abusive marriage, is unable to form lasting bonds with his fellow New Yorkers in “bedraggled Mockingbird”. Weighed down by his pathetically low self-esteem, “she did not say ‘Lardass’ but he heard it”, Quoyle is lonely, miserable and without hope. In Triage, Mark’s isolation comes about due to his guilt about his fellow war journalist’s death. His inability to discuss Colin’s death leads to a hail of lies and his eventual mental implosuin. Winston’s isolation, like Quoyle’s, stems from his environment rather than an event. Brought up in a society which forbids love and encourages the betrayal of child to parent, wife to husband, Winston is unable to fulfill his deep-seated need for companionship.
It is however, the changes in the protagonists which illustrate most clearly how essential and healing human relationships are. Quoyle and Winston are transformed by love, experiencing a dramatic improvement in quality of life – as Quoyle puts it “as if he found a polarised lens which deepened and intensified all seen through it”. The biggest change in Quoyle, at least , is mental. Despite little physical change, Quoyle is able to realise that his “great damp loaf of a body” is actually “strength rather than obesity”, implying that self-esteem is directly linked to acceptance-a point summed up by his gentle lover Wavey “It’s like you feel to yourself it’s all you deserve.”
The changes in Winston, with the exception of a healed varicose ulcer, are more difficult to observe. It is significant, however, that he values Julia above all else-as proved by O’Brien’s torture of him, as she is the last thing he clings to, and by his stated willingness to throw acid in a child’s face, spread veneral disease and so on over parting with her. Winston’s attitude towards Julia and the redemption experienced by Quoyle due to Wavey illustrate the esential part love and compainionship play in life.
Proulx, Anderson and Orwell all stress the importance of a genetic and geographical background in preventing isolation. Initially, none of the three protagonists have a clear base to fall back on-Quoyle and Winston know little about their families and Mark is constantly travelling.
It is clear that the dramatic changes in Quoyle and his new-found acceptance into a community are directly linked to his return to his ancestral homeland of Newfoundland. By discovering his past, Quoyle becomes grounded and able to move on. The homing desire of Quoyle’s aunt resposible for his move to Newfoundland – “As you get older you find the place where you started pulls at you stronger and stronger”-is mirrored in Triage by Talzani’s ” Homeland … we’re all just homing pigeons in the end” and provides insight into the rapid mental collapse of Mark and the unhappiness of Winston. Neither of these individuals are secure in their environments, which makes the burden of any additional isolation-whether mental or societal-far more difficult to bear.
To a large extent, the isolation of the population in 1984 is the method used by the Party to control them. By reducing the ties between parent and child, between husband and wife, the party ensures a lack of stable base for resistance to generate. The willingness of Winston and Julia to rebel once they have the support of each other and, ironically, O’Brien effectively illustrates this point.
Despite representing three different genres, The Shipping News, Triage and 1984 all use the negative and positive changes in their protagonists-whether Quoyle’s boost in self-esteem due to community bonds, Mark’s mental breakdown due to the isolating power of guilt, or Winston’s joy in the companionship of Julia-to illustrate the inability of humanity to cope with isolation and without an established psychological “homeland.”