The Lonely Londoners

by Samuel Selvon

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How are shattered illusions presented in The Lonely Londoners?

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Shattered illusions are directly related to the main theme (and the appropriate title) of this novel:  loneliness in London (especially felt by immigrants from West India). 

The illusions that are shattered are all about what life would be like in London vs. what life is really like in London.  What is the illusion that is shattered?  The illusion that is shattered is that Moses Aloetta from Trinidad (as well as other characters such as Galahad and Cap, who are not as developed as he is) would have adequate work, money, food, shelter, and happiness.  What the black immigrants from the West Indies come upon is racism.  As a result, they are forced to hope for something much less.

[They want only] a little work, a little food, a little place to sleep … [they] only want to get by … [they] don't even want to get on.

Their monetary hardship can be seen in almost every aspect of their lives.  The illusion is wealth and abundance.  The reality is poverty and loneliness.

[We live] in seedy furnished rooms in run-down areas and have to scramble for what jobs there are or go on the dole.

There are social hardships as well.  For example, Galahad has a very specific illusion: he wants to be successful in dating many white women.  As we can see from Galahad’s date with Dolly, the reality is very different from the illusion.  Galahad’s hospitality is not appreciated and Dolly is not what Galahad expected.

It is the reality, or the shattered illusion, that is the focus of The Lonely Londoners.  The immigrants from West India are never truly accepted in their new home in England.  Despite the humor used to tell the story, the immigrants’ isolation is always felt.

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