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Isolation In The Dance And The Railroad And The Strong Breed

Updated August 28, 2022

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Isolation In The Dance And The Railroad And The Strong Breed essay

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An overall theme of isolation permeates through both Wole Soyinka’s The Strong Breed and David Henry Hwang’s The Dance and the Railroad. Every character in these two plays suffers from some form of isolation from the rest of their society. Although Hwang’s Lone and Soyinka’s Girl are isolated for markedly different reasons and take opposite roads in their character growth, they share many similarities including often mirroring their society and some of their treatment of other characters. In The Dance and the Railroad, Lone has self imposed his isolation from the rest of the railroad workers.

He describes them to Ma as “dead men,” believing that they have lost their spirit working for the “white devils”. Lone does not seem to respect his countrymen and withdraws instead to practice his craft. These feelings change by the end of the play. After the workers are successful with their strike demands, Lone regains his respect for them. He expresses this to Ma: “Maybe I was wrong about them”(1456). Soyinka’s Girl suffers a different isolation. Her isolation stems from the illness that she suffers. She explains to Eman, “Don’t you know I play alone? The other children don’t come near me. Their mothers would beat them”(1274). Her isolation symbolically ends near the end of the play, much like Lone. Unlike Lone, however, she accomplishes this through the betrayal of Eman to the village elders.

In this she seems to still be a hard character where Lone becomes more compassionate. Although isolated, both of these characters share characteristics with their estranged communities. The Girl, like her fellow villagers, is detached and unaffected by human need. She shares the village’s feelings towards strangers and rebukes all of Eman’s friendly advances. The stage directions describe The Girl as ” .. unsmiling. She possesses in fact a kind inscrutability [that] is unsettling”(1274). Her treatment of Ifada is merciless. His need makes no impression on her. She says to him, “You have a head like a spider’s egg, and your mouth dribbles like a roof”(1275). When she plays with him, it is entirely for her benefit. She points out in relation to the effigy, “just because you are helping me, don’t think it is going to cure you”(1275).

Lone shares characteristics with to railroad workers too. Lone’s treatment of Ma parallels the treatment he has received from the villagers. He calls Ma “a child” and “an insect interrupting my practice”(1446). Ma receives similar treatment from the workers, who belittle him by lying about such things as living underground during the winter and warm snow. While this is similar to how The Girl treats Ifada, the similarities end as Lone grows as a character. Near the end of Hwang’s play, Lone not only accepts Ma but also befriends him. Will I see you here tonight? MA. Tonight? LONE. I just thought I’d ask. (1456) Lone and The Girl share many common characteristics and have many differences. They are both isolated from the others in the play, Lone by choice and The Girl through circumstance. They start the plays with similarities to their respective communities. Both seem to lesson their isolation late in the play, Lone through acceptance of his coworkers and The Girl symbolically through the betrayal of Eman.

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Isolation In The Dance And The Railroad And The Strong Breed. (2019, Feb 11). Retrieved from