Responsibility, Being stuck and Lack of Choice

Categories: Evicted Matthew Desmond

“It was difficult work, but I have often noticed that it is almost intolerable to be looked at, to be watched, when one is idle. When one is idle and alone, the embarrassments of loneliness are almost endlessly compounded.” Chapter 8, pg 158, Robinson.

A recurring theme throughout housekeeping is the concept of loneliness and isolation. The story shows and highlights how each character faces and is presented with the tribulations of loneliness and how the feeling of it can affect everyday life.

Later on throughout the book Sylvie becomes convinced that there are children living on a remote island and she is set on showing the island and its imaginary children to ruth. As expected from Ruth, Sylvie wandered off on the island and Ruth is left to reflect on her impending isolation. It is in that moment, where Ruth comes to term with how isolated and lonely she really is. Ruth is then forced to sit in reflection about how isolation makes her feel and how it was even effecting her in the moment, for she was truly alone.

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Ruth finds the most discomforting feeling to her is when she feels as if eyes are observing her while she sits idle, alone. These emotions of complete solitude make Ruth feel anxious and unsettled. It was observed throughout the book that the characters spend a lot of time in confinement, especially where no one can see them. Although they experience loneliness when they are hidden away from life at the lake or in their home, it is when they are in the light of the outside world that their alienation truly becomes evident in their lives.

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It was in this moment Ruth honestly acknowledged the isolation of her family from the rest of FingerBone and because of this, embarrassment followed.

I agree with what you stated, isolation a a big pushing factor in the novel especially when it comes to ruth's situation. Isolation allows a user to seek comfort in distressing situations ultimately allowing them to character build. This over all feeling forces her to go out in search of her true self in a way, again allowing her to grow. Because of the outside factors that took place in her life it confined her to be like this.

The book reveals some of the obstacles faced by the poorest of the poor when they seek housing. We see them carrying belongings in plastic trash bags into substandard housing; coping with unsanitary and dangerous conditions; watching as marshals and movers reclaim the apartment; and being forced outside again, in search of housing that is probably worse than what they previously had.

In both Evicted and Housekeeping, you see isolation in the flesh. How does an individual or family deal with isolation and the trials it comes with?

The author, Matthew Desmond, of Evicted highlights poverty in America throughout his book. Desmond states, “Our cities have become unaffordable to our poorest families, and this problem is leaving a deep and jagged scar on our next generation.” This book makes it evident that poverty makes people feel isolated. People who are living in poverty tend to feel isolation from the rest of the world because simple tasks like grocery shopping or decent public schooling does not come as easy to them as it does to those who are middle class and up. We are introduced to Arleen Belle in the beginning of the book and following her introduction the readers are enveloped into a whirlwind of her financial burdens. Much like Ruth, Arleen experiences moments of isolation in different terms such as when she can not afford a lawyer. Without a lawyer Arleen is bound to take on the case by herself and feels lonely in her fight. Not only are Arleen and her family confronted by feelings of confinement and solitude, many others in this book are as well.

In both Evicted and Housekeeping isolation is presented in numerous circumstances. In what way is isolation most connected in both of these stories?

“ There were so many things to deal with--- repairs, collections, moves, advertisements, inspectors, social workers, cops. The swirl of work, a million little things regularly interrupted by some big thing, had been encroaching on her Sunday soul food dinners with her mom.” Chapter 1, pg. 14, Desmond

In Evicted the themes of responsibility and being stuck in one place occur often throughout the book. It shows how people in poverty have to deal with all these issues with no help at all, how they have to carry all the weight. Sherrena has to deal with all her personal issues such as bills and families as well as having to deal with problems at her work. She sees no advancement in her life as she feels like all those problems will never go away and especially with having no support at all. That is all her life is just dealing with other people's problems and her own problems that she can not even have time for herself to focus. Even when she is with her mom all she can think of are her problems rather than enjoy the time she has with her mom. There is no chance for her to reflect or to just take a breather, it is always worry after worry and just crossing her checklist off and adding back to it. It is a everlasting thing she feels she will have to be responsible for which is why she feels as if she will be stuck doing that for the rest of her life.

I agree, throughout the novel a common recurring theme is isolation. Isolation offers you space for introspection to know who you are and what you want. As you get comfortable in your skin and crystal clear on your values and priorities, you begin to make your own decisions based on your inner compass instead of getting influenced by any outside forces. This is specificly seen in sherrena when it comes to her family issues.

The book reveals some of the obstacles faced by the poorest of the poor when they seek housing. We see them carrying belongings in plastic trash bags into substandard housing; coping with unsanitary and dangerous conditions; watching as marshals and movers reclaim the apartment; and being forced outside again, in search of housing that is probably worse than what they previously had.

In both Housekeeping and Evicted there is a sense of responsibility and stuckness with one of the characters, how does one move forward from this and change their way of living?

Helen from Housekeeping is left with the responsibility of taking care of her kids all by herself as Robinson states “ after their father’s death, the girls hoevered around her, watched everything she did, followed her through the house, got in her way.” just like Sherrena she had to do this all by herself and deal with the not just one kid but many. This shows how sometimes you have to deal with issues that you never imagined and sometimes have to give up your life just to deal with someone else's. How having someone to depend on is not always guaranteed and sometimes you just have to deal with everything by yourself. Helen experiences many moments of responsibility as she now has to do everything by herself as a widowed mother and support her family by herself. She now has to deal with being a good role model to her kids as they follow her now and watch everything she does as she is the motherly figure they have.

Updated: Jan 13, 2022
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Responsibility, Being stuck and Lack of Choice. (2022, Jan 13). Retrieved from

Responsibility, Being stuck and Lack of Choice essay
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