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04 the terrible-loneliness
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  • 1. The Terrible Loneliness Marisol Rey Castillo____________________________________________________________________________________________ THE TERRIBLE LONELINESS Marisol Rey Castillo © "The Last lovely City" is a short story written by Alice Adams (1927-1999). An American writer. After publishing her first story for the New Yorker (the magazine) in 1969, Ms. Adams became one of this magazines most distinctive voices. Her 1975 novel "Families and Survivors," about a woman who moves from the South to San Francisco, established her as an important literary presence. "Superior Women," which traced the lives of five Radcliffe women, became a bestseller in 1984. In this short story we can see Benito Zamora, a Mexican who is the main character of the story. He is a doctor, a very successful doctor, but, through the whole story we can see that even though he is famous and rich and known for everyone as an excellent doctor, he is not happy because he feels alone, and in fact he is alone although he knows everybody and he is grateful for many people, since the death of his wife Elizabeth he realizesthat. He sees the society as bad, and he does not like to meet that people because hethinks they are corrupt. "Old and famous, an acknowledged success both in this country and in his nativeMexico, though now a sadhearted widower..." that is as this story begins. Since the verybeginning we can see his success and his loneliness. Benito is invited to Stinson Beachto a lunch by Carla, a woman who he has met, but he wonders the reason for her inviteto him. He remembers his wife when he remembers the parties they used to go. Here is where we can find the first part where we can see how alone he is "AfterElizabeth died, now some few months ago, in April, friends and colleagues werepredictably kind —many invitations, too many solicitous phone calls. And then just aspredictably (he had seen this happen with relatives of patients), all the attention fell offand he was often alone" now that Benitos wife died he is alone and he knows nobody isgoing to be with him because he knows how people are. "Why must they leave him now,when he is so vulnerable?" Benito does not accept and does not resign that hi is alone.At the end of the story he says "You know, the whole city seems so corrupt these days.Its all real estate, and deals" here, Benito refers to the society who lives in that citywhich is San Francisco. He is frequently remembering his wife. In each word, in each movement, in eachdetail he sees, he is always remembering what Elizabeth said, did, thought. That is whyhe feels alone, because now she is not with him. Benito knows that he ended alone nowthat he is an old man and he is angry because of that. "But that is now how he endedup, the doctor tells himself, in a fierce interior whistler. He ended up with Elizabeth, whowas both, beautiful and good, a serious woman, with whom he lived harmoniously, if 1
  • 2. The Terrible Loneliness Marisol Rey Castillo____________________________________________________________________________________________sometimes sadly (they had no children, and Elizabeth was given to depression)... Theactual is now, of course, and he has ended up alone. Childless and without Elizabeth".Because of his loneliness, He is always rue for himself "The doctor takes deep breaths,inhaling the cool, fresh wind, and exhaling, he hopes and believes, the germs of self-pitythat sometimes enter and threaten to invade his system". In this lunch, he is introduced to some friends of the owner "People extend theirhands; they all say how nice it is to meet the doctor; several people say that they haveheard so much about him". He is famous and alone. Also in this lunch or party, he meetssome people from his past and he remembers how corrupt they are. He does not like tomeet with these people, he feels uncomfortable and he is afraid of them "He feels thepresence of those people in that rather vulgar, glassedin house behind him — of DoloresGutierrez and Herman Toliver, and God knows who else, what other ghosts from hispast whom he simply failed to see. As though they were giants, he feels their loomingpresences, and feels their connection to some past year or years of his own life". Benitodoes not want nobody to remind him his past life. We do not know excactly why.Perhaps because it is a corrupt past of his life, o because it is full of Elizabethsremembrances, or because he wants to bury his past as he buried Elizabeth. Benito is afraid of this loneliness and he tries hopelessly to take out thisloneliness from him. But he is aware that he must choose the right person. Not a personas the rest of the society, nor a corrupt person, no. He needs a right person. He knowsCarla and he finds she is full of values. When he knows Carla, he becomes too muchbuilt up hopes. In the party we can see that when Dolores arrives to try to separate Carlafrom Benito, and she flatters Carla, she said: "Why dont you ever say such flatteringthings to me?" and benito asks himself "Is she flirting with him, serious flirting? Well, shecould be". Since this point of the story we can see that the doctor discovers that hewants to marry this woman. He begins to feel good in her partnership: "This walk, andthe conversation, are serving both to calm and to excite the doctor. Simultaneously.Most peculiar. He feels calm, and at the same time a strange warm, quite excitement".Anyone could imagine that Benito fell in love with Carla, but that is not true because inthe story we do not find that and because we know Benito only wants to take away hisloneliness. Benito only thinks of Carlas partnership, he imagines "She could redecoratethe house any way she would like to, he thinks. Throw things out, repaint, reupholster,add mirrors. His imagination sees, all completed, a brilliant house, with Carla its brillian,shining, center". He thinks of Carla as a person to share with him a life, but not a love ashe thinks of Elizabeth "...the golden peaks of their time together. Beautiful days, longnights of love". Benito thinks his life is fixed now that he is going to marry Carla, but his life andhis hopes are destroyed by the news that Carla has a fiancé. "The sun has sunk into theocean, and Benitos heart has sunk with it, drowned. He shudders, despising himself.How could be possibly have imagined, how not have guessed?" Now, the only one way that exists to end this loneliness is to go to Mexico with hismother and to the clinics he had founded "Well, Ill be awfully glad to get back toMexico... The doctor had no plan to say (much less to do) any of this before he spoke,but he knows that he is now committed to this action...He will buy a house in SanCristóbal de las Casas, and will bring his mother there, from Oaxaca, to live in thathouse for as long as she lasts. And he, for as long as he lasts, will work in his clinics, 2
  • 3. The Terrible Loneliness Marisol Rey Castillo____________________________________________________________________________________________with his own poor... That as soon as he can arrange things he will be back in Chiapas, inMexico. For the rest of his life". That is the only thing he can do for not feeling alone. Finally, we can say that this short story is an example of what some people live.Not only in San Francisco or in Chiapas, but around the world. People feel alone. Theyfeel abandoned even though there are many people around them, although they havefamily, and job, and a "normal" life, people feel alone. The case of Benito shows how aperson can be rich, famous, and successful, but also can be alone even though heknows everybody. And also this case shows the rejection he has towards this societyand his hopelessly desire to escape from this society and from this loneliness. ___________________ BIBLIOGRAPHYSTONE, Robert, ed. "The best American Short Stories, 1992" HoughtonmifflingCompany. New York, 1992. Pgs 1 - 14. 3