The Human Comedy, written by William Saroyan in 1943 and set during World War II, has a number of important themes that are interesting to consider. However, of these themes, loneliness is perhaps the most significant.
The novel’s premise is that all of humanity suffers from loneliness, and like the characters in the novel, humans all search to reduce this loneliness through human unity where they can. The story is introspective and emotive, which further highlights the theme of loneliness.
Homer Macauley, who is fourteen years old, is the central character. Following the death of his father, Homer sees himself as responsible for taking care of his family. In order to bring in more money, Homer has a part-time job as a telegraph messenger, which sees him regularly bringing bad news to members of his community who have loved ones fighting overseas. Throughout these encounters, Homer exhibits the importance of human unity through his compassion.
Mrs. Sandoval, your son is dead. Maybe it’s a mistake. Maybe it wasn’t your son. Maybe it was somebody else. The telegram says it was Juan Domingo. But maybe the telegram is wrong.
Here, Homer is reaching out to Mrs. Sandoval. He does not want her to feel alone.
Homer wanted to get up and run but he knew he would stay. He even thought he might stay for the rest of his life. He just didn’t know what else to do to try to make the woman less unhappy, and if she had asked him to take the place of her son, he would not have been able to refuse.
The characters in The Human Comedy not only search for human unity, but embrace situations that make them feel less lonely. For example, Mr. Spangler, the office manager at the telegraph office, is a kind-but-lonely man. He grabs and holds onto romantic love and happiness when he meets the vibrant Diana Steed. Homer’s brother Ulysses, who is only four years old, is a reserved, contemplative child who finds great delight when he is waved at by a stranger on a train. Also, when Mrs. Macauley welcomes Tobey George, a soldier colleague of her son Marcus, into her home, she is reaching out to him to assuage her sadness and loneliness after the death of her husband and her eldest son.