In Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab, the older and young generations handle loss and alienation by initially exacerbating it. After Sydney and India break up, Sydney magnifies the loss by how he departs. He doesn’t say goodbye to Jonathan and he doesn't remain in Toronto. He alienates himself further by abruptly leaving and returning to Trinidad. Like his parent, Jonathan doubles down on his feelings of loss and alienation. He isolates himself at the Toronto Reference Library. “I hid away in the reading booths,” he says. Alienated from Sydney, Jonathan alienates himself from India as well.
Sydney’s reinforced isolation appears to help him find his identity as a man. Jonathan’s enhanced alienation doesn’t supply him with a fulfilling identity. His identity as a successful novelist is less about him and more about his desire to reconnect with Sydney. “I can’t deny that, with each book’s publication, I hoped that hype about them would attract Sid’s attention,” admits Jonathan.
In The Dragon Can’t Dance, the loss of Miss Cleothilda’s youth has not caused her to lose her identity as an attractive person. She continues to wear clothes that show off her body and to think of herself as a queen. Her sense of “beauty and importance” generates alienation. Miss Olive and Miss Caroline criticize Miss Cleothilda’s sensuous conduct. They take issue with how she separates herself from the rest of the community because of her lighter skin.
Miss Olive’s daughter, Sylvia, provides an example of how the younger generation handles loss, alienation, and identity. Early on, Sylvia loses her agency. To pay for rent, her mom lets Mr. Guy engage in sexual conduct with her. Maintaining her virginal identity in the face of sexual exploitation requires Sylvia to develop agility and quickness. As the narrator states, Sylvia “moved too fast for things to penetrate her.”
Later on, when Miss Cleothilda feels that a “new situation” has “threatened her position as queen,” she handles the potential loss by alienating herself less. As a way to preserve her identity, she tries to forge relationships with Philo, whom she previously rebuffed, and the younger Sylvia.