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English society in the 18th century
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The word "Alienation" derives from Latin alienatio, -onis, that means "to remove, to deprived". In fact, it designates <<estrangement>> from own identity, from other individuals, from own job, from society. A self-induced trial of neutralization or dissociation from individual emotions.
The first sociological interpretation was given by Karl Marx. He criticizes and describes the working conditions of the Capitalistic system that had given to man a sense of powerlessness, of detachment from what surrounds him.
Some sociologists think that Alienation is a typical product of the contemporary society. In fact, about this theme, the contemporary poets have written much more than previous poets.
About the sense of annihilation is The Hollow Men, a T.S. Eliot's work, written in 1925. The author criticizes the inutility of a empty life, through symbolical images which give a sense of aridity, exclusion, madness.
Madness is present also in the irrational and illogical speech between Hirst and Foster in a passage of H. Pinter's No Man's Land, written in 1975 They are simple character men with elementary emotions, but they are anguished by the absurdity of the existence, they must fight against the circumstances of life.
L. Mumford denounces the adverse effect of technology and of mass-media influence. About this, W.H. Auden, in The Unkown Citizen (1940), asks if man is free and happy in a world deprived of values and characterized by a empty materialism. Man is slave of a soulless society. He serve it with perfect behaviour only because he is driven and checked like a manikin; the modern and technological culture represses the personality of man. For this reason he is isolated.
About isolation is The Breaking of the Unicorn, from T. Williams's The Glass Menagerie (1945). Silence and renunciation characterize Laura, the protagonist. She is a crippled girl and this phisycal handicap leads her to a psychological fragility. She believes to be different. Diversity involve alienation.
Alienation is a possible cause of violence, of deviant behaviours. Such as Willy Loman, the protagonist of A. Miller's masterpiece, Death of a Salesman. Willy decides to commit suicide, but he is just a victim of circumstances. He is ambitious but his aspirations do not materialize. Alienation is synonymous of frustration.
Violence is typical of the decadent and degraded society described in Where is Everyone!, from Fires written by R. Carver, in 1985. The protagonist discovers that his wife have a lover. It leads him towards a inner research. But he finds in himself incapacity and inability.
Cinema deals with Alienation too. In Taxi Driver M. Scorsese assigns to R. De Niro the role of Travis Bickle, a cynical anti-heroe who vents his alienation in violence. He finds a illusory redemption from his personal hell when, slaughtering, he save a baby-prostitute from her protector.
An image that representes a scarecrow gives a sense of Alienation, of empty life, to be a victim of circumstances. But if we look into us, even if we have not made by straw, often we feel useless, slave of materialism, fragile such as Laura or whipped such as Willy, our existence appears us senseless or infernal such as Travis. Alienation is into everyone. Some philosophers maintain that self-estrangement and the sensation that destiny cannot be changed are typical of human condition. For this reason, perhaps, Alienation is a need too, we can do without it.