The Lonely Londoners

by

Sam Selvon

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The protagonist, a Trinidadian man living in London. At the outset of The Lonely Londoners, Moses has been in England for roughly ten years, making him somewhat of a mentor and role model to many newly-arrived immigrants. A manual laborer who works nights, he spends his days fraternizing with other immigrants, many of whom he judges even though he counts them among his friends. Indeed, Moses is a man of principal, somebody who resents the fact that some of his fellow immigrants take advantage of the Welfare State by taking unemployment money without even trying to secure steady jobs. To Moses, this kind of behavior only elicits criticism and prejudice from the many white Londoners who already think black immigrants are a scourge, flooding the city and draining its resources. When Moses meets Galahad at Waterloo Station and shows the young immigrant the ins and outs of life in England, he counsels his new friend by emphasizing that immigrants who don’t work ultimately “muddy the water” for other black people who are trying to make their way in a racist, unforgiving city. Despite his strong views about this topic, though, Moses is friends with people who fully embody this kind of complacency, frequently spending time with wily characters like Cap, a man who goes from person to person borrowing money and refusing to get a job. Unfortunately, Moses feels discouraged by the idea that people like Cap lead seemingly prosperous lives even though they never work, especially since he himself has dedicated the better part of a decade to toiling away in the hopes of climbing the socioeconomic ladder. By the end of the novel, Moses finds himself experiencing a stasis, and feeling that he’ll never make enough money to become upwardly mobile. Although this thought encourages him to return to Trinidad, he also can’t quite bring himself to leave London, a city he has come to love—at least in the summertime. As such, he finds himself caught in limbo, unwilling to abandon his dreams of upward mobility but also sorely missing his homeland.

Moses Quotes in The Lonely Londoners

The The Lonely Londoners quotes below are all either spoken by Moses or refer to Moses. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Longman edition of The Lonely Londoners published in 1989.
Section 1 Quotes

And this sort of thing was happening at a time when the English people starting to make rab about how too much West Indians coming to the country: this was a time, when any corner you turn, is ten to one you bound to bounce up a spade. In fact, the boys all over London, it ain’t have a place where you wouldn’t find them, and big discussion going on in Parliament about the situation, though the old Brit’n too diplomatic to clamp down on the boys or to do anything drastic like stop them from coming to the Mother Country. But big headlines in the papers every day, and whatever the newspaper and the radio say in this country, that is the people Bible. Like one time when newspapers say that the West Indians think that the streets of London paved with gold a Jamaican fellar went to the income tax office to find out something and first thing the clerk tell him is, “You people think the streets of London are paved with gold?”

Related Characters: Moses
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

For the old Waterloo is a place of arrival and departure, is a place where you see people crying goodbye and kissing welcome, and he hardly have time to sit down on a bench before this feeling of nostalgia hit him and he was surprise. It have some fellars who in Brit’n long, and yet they can’t get away from the habit of going Waterloo whenever a boat-train coming in with passengers from the West Indies. They like to see the familiar faces, they like to watch their countrymen coming off the train, and sometimes they might spot somebody they know[…].

But Moses, he never in this sort of slackness: the thought never occur to him to go to Waterloo just to see who coming up from the West Indies. Still, the station is that sort of place where you have a soft feeling. It was here that Moses did land when he come to London[…]. Perhaps he was thinking is time to go back to the tropics, that’s why he feeling sort of lonely and miserable.

Related Characters: Moses, Galahad (Henry Oliver)
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 2 Quotes

It ain’t have no s— over here like “both of we is Trinidadians and we must help out one another.” You going to meet a lot of fellars from home who don’t even want to talk to you, because they have matters on the mind. So the sooner you get settled the better for you. London not like Port of Spain. Don’t ask plenty questions, and you will find out a lot. I don’t usually talk to fellars like this, but I take a fancy for you, my blood take you.

Related Characters: Moses (speaker), Galahad (Henry Oliver)
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

It have a kind of fellar who does never like people to think that they unaccustomed to anything, or that they are strangers in a place, or that they don’t know where they going. They would never ask you how to get to Linden Gardens or if number 49 does go down High Street Ken. From the very beginning they out to give you the impression that they hep, that they on the ball, that nobody could tie them up.

Related Characters: Moses, Galahad (Henry Oliver)
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

It ain’t have no place in the world that exactly like a place where a lot of men get together to look for work and draw money from the Welfare State while they ain’t working. Is a kind of place where hate and disgust and avarice and malice and sympathy and sorrow and pity all mix up. Is a place where everyone is your enemy and your friend. Even when you go to draw a little national assistance it don’t be so bad, because when you reach that stage is because you touch bottom. But in the world today, a job is all the security a man have. A job mean place to sleep, food to eat, cigarette to smoke. And even though it have the Welfare State in the background, when a man out of work he like a fish out of water gasping for breath. It have some men, if they lose their job it like the world end, and when two-three weeks go by and they still ain’t working, they get so desperate they would do anything.

Related Characters: Moses, Galahad (Henry Oliver)
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 3 Quotes

It have some men in this world, they don’t do nothing at all, and you feel that they would dead from starvation, but day after day you meeting them and they looking hale, they laughing and they talking as if they have a million dollars, and in truth it look as if they would not only live longer than you but they would dead happier.

Related Characters: Moses, Cap (Captain)
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 11 Quotes

Sometimes I look back on all the years I spend in Brit’n, […] and I surprise that so many years gone by. Looking at things in general life really hard for the boys in London. This is a lonely miserable city, if it was that we didn’t get together now and then to talk about things back home, we would suffer like hell. Here is not like home where you have friends all about. In the beginning you would think that is a good thing, that nobody minding your business, but after a while you want to get in company, you want to go to somebody house and eat a meal, you want to go on excursion to the sea, you want to go and play football and cricket. Nobody in London does really accept you. They tolerate you, yes, but you can’t go in their house and eat or sit down and talk. It ain’t have no sort of family life for us here.

Related Characters: Moses (speaker), Galahad (Henry Oliver)
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 13 Quotes

Sometimes he think he see some sort of profound realization in his life, as if all that happen to him was experience that make him a better man, as if now he could draw apart from any hustling and just sit down and watch other people fight to live. Under the kiff-kiff laughter, behind the ballad and the episode, the what-happening, the summer-is-hearts, he could see a great aimlessness, a great restless, swaying movement that leaving you standing in the same spot. As if a forlorn shadow of doom fall on all the spades in the country. As if he could see the black faces bobbing up and down in the millions of white, strained faces, everybody hustling along the Strand, the spades jostling in the crowd, bewildered, hopeless. As if, on the surface, things don’t look so bad, but when you go down a little, you bounce up a kind of misery and pathos and a frightening—what? He don’t know the right word, but he have the right feeling in his heart. As if the boys laughing, but they only laughing because they fraid to cry, they only laughing because to think so much about everything would be a big calamity—like how he here now, the thoughts so heavy like he unable to move his body.

Related Characters: Moses
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Lonely Londoners LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Lonely Londoners PDF

Moses Character Timeline in The Lonely Londoners

The timeline below shows where the character Moses appears in The Lonely Londoners. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
On a cold London evening in the middle of winter, Moses Aloetta takes a bus to Waterloo Station and waits to meet a man arriving from... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Moses feels that he has hardly had any time to settle into his new life in... (full context)
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
The current immigration situation in London makes Moses nervous because most of the people coming over from the West Indies are, “real hustlers,... (full context)
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
While waiting for Henry on the platform, Moses experiences a strange feeling of nostalgia and homesickness, one he’s never felt in the ten... (full context)
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
Sitting on a bench in the station, Moses comes across Tolroy, a Jamaican friend who has sent for his mother to join him... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
As Moses waits for the train, a reporter approaches and asks him if he’s just arrived from... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Moses is disappointed to lose the reporter’s interest, since he rarely gets the opportunity to express... (full context)
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
While Tolroy’s family poses for the photograph, Moses waits for Henry. When the young man finally appears on the platform, he’s wearing nothing... (full context)
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
Moses can’t fathom the fact that Henry hasn’t packed anything except a toothbrush, and he’s even... (full context)
Section 2
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
On the underground train, Galahad pesters Moses with questions about London. “Take it easy,” Moses says. “You can’t learn everything the first... (full context)
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
“I don’t usually talk to fellars like this,” Moses says, “but I take a fancy for you.” Before going to bed, Moses finally lets... (full context)
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
...can “take care of himself, that he don’t want help for anything.” As such, when Moses offers to go to the employment office with him that morning, he declines, saying he’ll... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
Moses knows Galahad will never heed his advice to return to Trinidad, so he gives him... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
...day before about welfare—“about how you could go on the dole if you ain’t working.” Moses confirms that this is indeed the case, asking Galahad if he wants to “be like... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
Moses tells Galahad he’s happy to hear that the young man won’t “ants on the State,”... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
...feels a burst of loneliness and fear, forgetting “all the brave words” he uttered to Moses. He suddenly realizes that he’s in a foreign city with no money, job, or friends.... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
...up […] a place where everyone is your enemy and your friend.” Standing in line, Moses points out a man who comes to the employment offices to collect welfare checks on... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
Moses teaches Galahad how to fill out the necessary forms, explaining that the top of his... (full context)
Section 3
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
The narrator circles back to tell the story of Moses’s arrival in London many years ago. When he first comes ashore, Moses looks for a... (full context)
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
...only remains for several days before quitting. After some time, the landlord at his and Moses’s hostel kicks him out for not paying rent. Luckily, Cap is staying in Moses’s room,... (full context)
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
One day, the landlord knocks on Moses’s door, wanting to check if Cap is inside. While Cap hides in the closet, Moses... (full context)
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
...he obtains by lying about his nonexistent allowance. In a conversation with Galahad about Cap, Moses says, “Is fellars like that who muddy the water for a lot of us.” Not... (full context)
Section 4
Racism Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
Another interesting person Moses encounters in his hostel is Bartholomew. The narrator explains that Bart is the type of... (full context)
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Even though Bart is well-off financially, he constantly comes to Moses’s apartment in search of free food, which Moses begrudgingly provides until one night, when he... (full context)
Section 5
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
...nearby house, and Tolroy aids Lewis in securing a job in the same factory as Moses. The narrator notes that Lewis is a curious and highly gullible person, somebody who asks... (full context)
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
When Moses tricks Lewis into thinking that wives frequently sleep with other men while their husbands are... (full context)
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
...Not long thereafter, Lewis learns that Agnes has pressed charges against him. At this point, Moses advises him to refrain from going to see Agnes in person after obtaining her address... (full context)
Section 7
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
...know why I hot in the winter and cold in the summer,” he says to Moses, who pokes fun at his friend. Nonetheless, things are going well for Galahad, who takes... (full context)
Section 8
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
Another immigrant in Moses’s circle of friends is a man named Big City, a nickname he earned in the... (full context)
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
After his conversation with Big City about gambling, Moses starts thinking about how nice it would be to have such a large sum of... (full context)
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
...the young man’s incredulity, Big City encourages Galahad to go up there himself, an idea Moses endorses as a way of “pok[ing] the fire.” “I know the fellar who talking on... (full context)
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
...Galahad claims he’ll beat him up the next time their paths cross. As such, whenever Moses sees Big City approaching, he goads Galahad by saying, “Ah, look Big City coming, Galahad.... (full context)
Section 9
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
...long stream-of-consciousness sentence that touches upon the sexually intoxicating qualities of summertime in London, when Moses and his friends cruise through Hyde Park looking to have sexual encounters. This time of... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
One evening, Moses meets a white woman in the park and brings her back to his apartment, where... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
One night, a white man approaches Moses in the park and tells him that he’s just the man he’s been looking for.... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
...thrills unless they have a black man in the company.” In keeping with this, whenever Moses attends one of these parties, somebody always presses five pounds into his hand and tells... (full context)
Section 10
Racism Theme Icon
Another of Moses’s friends is a man who goes by Five Past Twelve, a nickname he acquired because... (full context)
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
...into the ballroom, searching for the five white women he brought with him. Tracking down Moses, Harris asks him to “keep an eye on Five.” At this point, Ma and Tanty... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
After dancing with Tanty, Harris rushes over to Moses and tells him Five is misbehaving, but Moses insists that he’s simply having a good... (full context)
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Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Exhausted, Harris joins Moses and the others at the bar and orders a lemonade. Forgetting to use “proper’ English,... (full context)
Section 11
Racism Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
Having escaped the park with the pigeon, Galahad goes to Moses’s apartment and tells him he’s bought a bird and asks him to help him cook... (full context)
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Having eaten a good meal of pigeon and rice, Moses and Galahad speak nostalgically about Trinidad, sharing funny stories about people they both know. After... (full context)
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Galahad tries to lighten the mood, but Moses rejects his optimism, saying that he sometimes wakes up in the night and can’t go... (full context)
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Galahad insists that he doesn’t want to return to Trinidad. Moses, on the other hand, confesses that if he had enough money, he’d go home immediately... (full context)
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Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
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Continuing his critique of life in London, Moses says that—in addition to the fact that the city is “lonely” and “miserable”—white Britons don’t... (full context)
Section 13
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
...of what it’s like to live in London as an immigrant, the narrator mentions that Moses’s friends assemble in his apartment every Sunday morning as if they’re attending church. Getting together... (full context)
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“Sometimes, listening to them,” Moses “look in each face, and he feel a great compassion for every one of them,... (full context)
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To cope with the difficulty of supporting his friends, Moses makes jokes during the week, asking them if they’re coming to church on Sunday. When... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
On summer nights, Moses stands near the River Thames, staring at the city’s lights reflected upon the water, trying... (full context)