World Literature in EnglishSam Selvon
The Lonely Londoners
Image: from the cover of The Lonely Londoners  Harlow, Essex: Longman, 1956
Sam Selvon
  • Bio
  • On his language and comedy form
  • Patois Dictionary
    Issues for Discussion: 

    The Lonely Londoners  : 

    "Waiting for the Aunt to Cough"

    Background of 
    Caribbean immigration to U.K. 
  • London Guide
  • London Map (Multi Media Mapping)
  • Places
      The Lonely Londoners :
    The novel in general: 
    1. Why are these Caribbean Londoners lonely?  Do they have a way out of their sense of loneliness and disintegration?  (clues: the description of the labour office p. 45) 
    2. Can you find, as Selvon points out,  an alternation of Standard English and Trinidadian patois? ( His own views.)
    3. What do you think Selvon wants to include those lazy and irresponsible womanizers such as Cap?  What do you think about the female characters role in general?  ( See a critic's view.) 

    4.   Section 1 pp. 23 - 35: Moses and the scene at Waterloo station
    5. Upon first reading, you must have come across some non-Standard usages of English.  Can you identify them?   How is London fog described? 
    6. What kind of person is Moses?  How is he different from the other people from the Caribea area?  How does he relate to them (e.g.pp. 25. like "a welfare officer"; p. 26 "this sort of slackness";  p. 27 the Jamaican landlord)?  Is there any significance to his name? 

    7. Waterloo International Terminal; p. 113
      1. Tolroy: How kind of immigrant is Tolroy?  How is he different from Moses (pp. 26-27 ). 
      2. The  newspaper reporter: Why does Moses pretend that he is a new immigrant to the reporter?  Why does the reporter stop interviewing Moses in the middle?  How does he deal with the Tolroy family (pp. 30-32)?  How do they respond to him?  And how are they presented on newspaper the next day?
    1. The Caribbean immigrants:   Judging from the introduction to the book, the setting of the novel should be in 1950's, when large flow of Caribbean immigrants with their extended families arrive in U.K., and when the open-door policy started to be questioned.  What are the situations of the immigrants?  What do they expect of U.K. and how are they recieved?
    2. Henry Oliver (Sir Galahad)

    3. Section 2 pp. 35 - 47: (Moses &) Galahad
    4. What kind of contrast is shown between Galahad and Moses in their dialogue (pp. 38-41)? 
    5. Galahad immpresses Moses as being independent and courageous("on the ball," "have guts"p. 38).  But what happens to him when he goes out to look for a job?   Why does he feel that he loses everything when being lost on the street (p. 42)? 

    6. Section 3 pp. 47 - 61: Captain (a Nigerian)
    7. From this chapter on, Selvon presents all sorts of characters that live in a hostel.  The sections seem unconnected with each other, but you will get to understand the "lonely Londoners" more and more by putting different lives together and comparing them. 
    8. After the very heroic Galahad, we come across this wandering Nigerian, Captain, who surely is not the type of hardworking and responsible immigrant.  Try to describe--and understand-- his personalities. 
    9. Here, as well as in the next episode about Bart, Selvon does not want us to have a uniformly positive picture of the Caribbeans.   What, then, does he try to do?  (Of course, you won't be able to fully answer this question until you finish the novel.  Wait till the episode of Captain with his pigeons.)

    10. Section 4 pp. 61 - 67: Bart Section 5 pp. 67 - 71: Lewis
    11. Women: In these two sections, as well as the previous one, we get to see several different ways in which the male characters (Cap, Daniel, Bart and Lewis) deal with their women.  How do they differ from each other?  Would you call all of them male chauvinists? 
    12. Money: Why is Bart so obsessed with money?  What does money represent for him?  What is Lewis's obsession?

    13. Section 6 pp. 71 - 83: Tanty
    14. Pay attention to the description of the neighborhood and London in this section. 
    The Haves and Have-Nots

    Hampstead Heath

    Kensington Pallace
    Harrow Rd (The Lonely Londoners 73-74)
    1. Does the description of Tanty make you change your view about Selvon's gender policy? 
      Section 7  pp. 83 - 93 : [summer time] Galahad
    1. Here we see Galahad's experience of racism.  Why does Selvon wait till after the middle of the novel to present this? 
    2. Why does Galahad insist on meeting his German girlfriend, Daisy, in places such as Charing Cross and Piccadilly Tub Station?  Why doe he like to take her to Piccadilly Circus (84-85)?  Why does he care so much about his dressing?  Is all of this related just to his courting skills?

    Embankment place: Charing Cross 121
    ". . . when he say 'Charing Cross,' when he realise that is he, Sir Galahad, who going there, near that place that everybody in the world know about . . . he feel like a new man" (84).
    Piccadilly Circus; 89

    ". . . that circus have a magnet for him, that circus represent life, that circus is the beginning and the ending of the world" (90)
    1. How is all he intends defeated by the little child he meets?
    2. How does he respond to this discrimination against the blacks?  Why can he put his thoughts out of his mind as he goes to meet Daisy at the Circus (89)? 
    3. Gender relations: How does Galahad deal with Daisy?  How does he respond to Daisy's comment on his language?  Why does he call it a "battle royal" (93)?
      Section 8 pp. 93 - 67: Big City
    1. What are Big City's dreams?  Are they at all possible? 
    2. March Arch speech -- pp. 98-99.  What do you think about the interchange between Big City and Sir Galahad?  Are there symbolic meanings?

    Portobello Rd., Nottinghill Gate; 215.
    "Where are you going, Big City?"
    "Nottingham Gate.."
    "Is not Nottingham, boy, is Notting Hill."
    "You trying to -- me up?" (95)

    (Notting Hill, the center of Caribbean community. )

    Notting Hill carnival; 57

      Section 9 pp. 101 - 110: An overiew of the Caribbeans in summer
    1. Here there are two distinct changes in style: 1. the address to "you" and 2. the lack of punctuation.  Why? 
    2. How is the summer in the park (Hyde Park) presented?  Why does Selvon focus on the courting between the boys and the girls?  Besides the general description, what about the several examples of Moses' experience (with a woman who fakes being ill; a gay; a Blondie and a pansy).
    3. How does this section reveal about the relationships between black males and white women (108)? 

    4. Section 10 pp. 110 -122: Five Past Twelve vs. Harris; Tanty vs. Harris
      Section 11 pp. 122 - 134: Galahad; Moses and G, reflecting on their stay in London
    Kensington gardens in snow 59
    1. Do you think that Galahad is a "cruel beast" in catching and eating the pigeons (pp. 124-25)?
    2. What's the importance of the story of Brackley back home (pp. 127-28)
    3. What is Moses' experience in London like (pp. 129, 130-131)?  Why does Moses stay in London for ten years without going back?  Why does he still say he wants to go back?  Do you see him as a permanent sojourner who is forever isolated in the host society?  How about the fact that he votes for the Labour party every year? 
    4. Is Moses' reasons for not getting married justified?  Consider also Joseph's story (pp. 130-31).
      Section 12 pp. 134 - 37: Cap and the seagulls
      Section 13 pp. 137 - 42: Moses, the boys and the City
      1. What do you think about the role of Moses among the boys?  And his views of them (having "a forlorn shadow of doom fall on all of the spades" 141)? 
      2. What is the sense of "something solid" that he feels? 
      3. What role do women play among these lonely londoners? 
    Sam Selvon on his language and comedy form