Separation is a Liberating Quality in The Tempest and The Island of Dr. Mereau

I plan to examine how separation can actually be a liberating and empowering quality. In many of the texts we’ve covered in class, separation from society, in one aspect or another, is constructed to be a crippling feature that the characters have to endure, but I feel this concept is not absolute. I want to write about this topic to present an alternative to a prevalent standard. Separation has continuously been depreciated, but the benefits and freedoms have not been greatly addressed. Isolation is what allowed Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest to be free to perfect his craft, empowering him to be able to control an army of spirits. In Wells’ The Island of Dr. Mereau, Dr. Meareau is in a similar situation, where he is on his own island, free of the laws that prevented him from exercising his passion. To present and refute counterarguments, I plan to examine the film Far From Heaven directed by Todd Haynes. The film is set in the 1950’s, when segregation was socially and lawfully still very much intact. The film follows a white suburban housewife who, after a fall out from her homosexual husband, has fallen in love with an African-American man. However, in order to remain a respected white member of her town, she ends her relationship with him, which refutes the counterargument that normality and conformity is what is best, and it presents how restricting these qualities can be.

I already know that there is a prevalent assumption that separation is feared and subject to prejudice, and that social normality seems to be what is desired. I would like to further understand:
1. Is there a cost for such freedom, and if so, what?
2. What are the factors that keep people desiring to fit in?
3. Do the pros of conformity outweigh the cons?

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Separation is a Liberating Quality in The Tempest and The Island of Dr. Mereau

  1. aeernst

    This is a really interesting take on a topic that we have discussed at length in this class. I just believe that you will have to directly address the argument that separation is crippling and make a very convincing argument against it, but you seem well on your way to doing so. I would also suggest exploring:
    4) Is there any difference in the significance of physical versus emotional separation?

  2. siegvald

    You mentioned that normality and conformity are restricting qualities in the “Far From Heaven” movie. My question is 5. Normality back then was the segregation of blacks and whites. So if normality IS separation, and normality is restrictive, can we then presume that the opposite of separation becomes the liberating factor?

  3. smboehm

    I really like your take on this topic. It should make for an interesting read, and it sounds like you have many ideas of scenarios to back up your thesis.

    6) Is this separation quality only liberating in an island scenario? If normality and conformity are restricting qualities, do you think that the qualities that came from said liberation from separation would be different if they weren’t achieved on an island?

  4. looloo14

    This is a very intriguing concept. I thnk it is important to also consider the difference between separation by choice and forced separation like in the novels Robinson Crusoe and The Handmaid’s Tale. The examples you have seem exhibit characters who choose to be separated from society (one can argue that Prospero had enough power to leave the island whenever he wanted).
    7) How does separation on one’s own free will factor into separation as a positive situation for the character? Wouldn’t it be assumed that if a character chooses to live in seclusion, they are planning on the seclusion to be beneficial to their situation in life?

  5. Samantha Cooke

    Conformity and “fitting in” are definitely strong social motivators. I’ve always found the pack mentality interesting. Perhaps you might also want to consider:
    8. How does conformity play out in the beast people (on The Island of Dr. Moreau)?

  6. I think your paper will be very interesting and differ from the majority as you are writing the generally opposed idea throughout our texts. I like your idea about #1 the best, most people generally just take freedom for granted and do not consider the costs associated with it or that “freedom is not really free”. Although I am not familiar with the film it sounds like it would benefit your paper by including it.
    #8 I think it would helpful to more clearly define and explore what separation entails. For example is this a permanent state of separation from society? Or perhaps is separation beneficial but only in increments of time? Are there optimal increments of time? Is this complete and isolate separation? Or could your loved ones be with you?

  7. stperry1

    I think this is a really genius way to look at the novels that have been covered in this class. As you stated there is a pretty constant feeling of negativity associated with the idea of isolation, however, this may be presumptuous. As you have shown, there are some instances when isolation can ultimately be beneficial. Although there are some people who are successful while completely cut off from normal society, it is important to also take a look at the types of people that are succeeding in those circumstances.
    #9) Are there things about these individuals that make them more likely to prosper in isolation?

  8. Your point is a very valid one- people behave much differently when they are alone than when they are made to adhere to social norms and this could be a very liberating quality. Not only where Prospero and Dr.Moreau able to perfect their crafts, which was a liberating quality of its own, but the fact that this separation was present also liberated the plots of both of these books. I think another interesting thing to look at would be:
    10.How does the fact that the characters are separated from society in both of these books function to change the plot? How would the plot be different otherwise and what does this do to the story?

    Something else you may want to examine is how on the island of Dr.Moreau the people as well as the animals reverted to their bestial forms whenever the law or society was not watching over to keep them in check.

  9. vrosengrant20

    I like how you have taken a new perspective on the theme for this course along with incorporating a movie. I would like to see how you answer your first question when applied to Prospero since he has a goal beyond survival on his island and throws away the magic that his time on the island helped to develop. You can go further with a question like:
    11.) Does a character’s attachment to society outweigh the importance of their more personal relationships between family and friends?

  10. This topic really gets you thinking. I like how you are arguing against separation being depreciated. I never once imagined isolation as somewhat of an advantage. I also like how you’ve decided to bring a film into your work, along with the 2 texts you are already using, in order to throw out any counterarguments. Great strategy.
    12.) Comparing people who live in isolation to people within a large society, which do you think are more capable of reaching their goals and aspirations in life? Why so?

  11. autumncassidy

    I really enjoy how you have taken a topic that most would consider to be obviously negative and inverted it in order to argue the opposite perspective. However, I wonder if you would benefit from narrowing your scope?

    Question: Which of the texts is your essay more focused on?
    It may be beneficial to assign one of the works to be the main focus in the paper and then utilize the other two as support for your argument.

  12. Sophi

    This perspective is pleasantly unexpected, though because so many people have discussed this topic from the idea that separation is defeating, you should be careful to examine all possible arguments. Something you can consider is:
    14.) Is the isolation of the characters you will examine necessarily a good thing? Granted, their isolation is their freedom from limitation, but do the outcomes of their isolation pose a potentially greater risk to a larger number of individuals (people and animals) at the expense of attaining personal aspirations?

  13. ashleighbarraca

    I love that your paper will flip pretty much everything we’ve discussed in class on its head. Very creative! I think it might be interesting to look at some psychological studies as well, if you can find any, that address “loners”. We as a society base almost everything on the presumption that everyone likes to be around other people, but of course some things are just better done alone.

    Something else to take into consideration is: 15) If you must be part of a lonely minority, is there a “best” one to be a part of? Can you ever be truly by yourself, if there are other types of loneliness?

  14. I absolutely love this topic! I think that whenever we read the texts in class that really concentrated on the characters being isolated, usually the first reaction is to how terrible that isolation must be. I really like how you have the complete opposite opinion of this matter. The question I like the most is #2. Most people are trying to fit into a certain crowd, sometimes their entire lives. It is interesting as to why people do this, and why individuality is not preferred.

    16) What other positive ways are there to look at isolation? How could isolation and not having the influence of other people around you (or the characters in the books) be a good thing for a person?

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