The Lonely Londoners

by Samuel Selvon

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

The significance of the title "The Lonely Londoners" and the reasons behind the characters being called Londoners and their loneliness

Summary:

The title The Lonely Londoners signifies the isolation experienced by Caribbean immigrants in 1950s London. Despite being called "Londoners," the characters face racial discrimination and cultural dislocation, which exacerbates their loneliness. They struggle to integrate into the society while maintaining their cultural identity, highlighting the paradox of belonging yet feeling alienated.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why is the work titled The Lonely Londoners?

The Lonely Londoners examines the detached, rootless existence of Caribbean émigrés in England in the period after World War II. While the immigrants like to imagine themselves at the center of the British empire, they are not integrated into the society around them. Men like Galahad and Moses spend time hitting the hotspots of the city, such as Piccadilly Circus, but they aren't really accepted by the people around them. Instead, they interact with white Brits and other Europeans around them in superficial ways, such as by trying to sleep with white women. However, they live mainly on the margins. They aren't married to white Brits, and the British or other European people they meet seem to treat them as merely sexual objects or as potential customers for their businesses. Moses says, "This is a lonely miserable city, if it was that we didn’t get together now and then to talk about things back home, we would suffer like hell." He feels that only fellow Caribbean immigrants offer him companionship, and he and the other Caribbean people he interacts with are truly lonely in their adopted city.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why is the work titled The Lonely Londoners?

The novel The Lonely Londoners is a story written by Samuel Selvon about a man who helps his new country men arrive in London, get jobs, and find suitable housing.  The author calls this novel The Lonely Londoners because of the hatred, bigotry and mistreatment of the West Indians during this era.  There is even a quote from the book where one person says, "Why can't you be blue, or red, or yellow?  Anything but black." This is the type of isolation these people had to deal with during this period in London. The new people felt alone, afraid, and unwanted.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "The Lonely Londoners", why are the characters called Londoners and why are they lonely?

The title "Lonely Londoners" is directly related to the novel's main theme.  The main character, Moses Aloetta, is an emigrant from his native Trinidad to England, and specifically London, in the years after World War II.  The central theme of the story is the isolation and loneliness of West Indian immigrants in London during that time.

Moses and his loosely banded group of fellow West Indians feel displaced in their new environment, even though some of them have been in London for a number of years.  They are on the whole good people who want nothing more than "a little work, a little food, a little place to sleep...(they) only want to get by...don't even want to get on".  Yet the characters, who are black, struggle against racial discrimination and economic hardship.  Largely "unskilled and semi-educated", they are forced to live "in seedy furnished rooms in run-down areas and have to scramble for what jobs there are or go on the dole".

The immigrants' difficult situation is intensified by the fact that they have cut themselves off from "their roots and traditional means of support", but cannot find acceptance in their adopted home.  They exist in a hopeless state of isolation, "lonely" in the city of London.

The story is told in a light-hearted, comic tone, but the sense of emptiness which engulfs the characters' lives is overriding.  Laughter cannot completely hide the desperation they feel.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on