The Lonely Londoners

by

Sam Selvon

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The Lonely Londoners: Section 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Creating a running list 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 “for a oldtalk,” they enjoy themselves over lighthearted conversation, talking and laughing and telling stories, “everybody asking what happening but nobody like they know what happening.” The narrator provides fragmented pieces of dialogue, the beginnings of stories like, “Boy Moses, if I tell you what happen to me last night—,” and, “Boy, I pick up something by the Arch yesterday—.” Mixed in with these stories are questions about employment opportunities or inquiries about whether anybody knows about an available apartment.
Once again, the vitality and cohesiveness of the immigrant community comes to the forefront of The Lonely Londoners, as Moses hosts a congregation of friends every Sunday. By comparing these meetings to going to church, the narrator showcases the mutual support the characters lend one another when they get together to tell stories and ask questions about possible opportunities. In the same way that a church community bands together to uplift one another, the immigrants who populate Moses’s apartment each Sunday not only help each other find new jobs or places to live, but also help each other shoulder the emotional burdens that come along with immigration.
Themes
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
Related Quotes
“Sometimes, listening to them,” Moses “look in each face, and he feel a great compassion for every one of them, as if he live each of their lives, one by one, and all the strain and stress come to rest on his own shoulders.” On some Sundays, he barely even talks, letting his friends’ words wash over him as he leans back on the bed and listens to their stories and problems. When they leave, their voices continue in his head, “ringing in his ear, and sometimes tears come to his eyes and he don’t know why really, if is home-sickness or if is just that life in general beginning to get too hard.”
The fact that Moses feels as if he has lived each of his friends’ lives emphasizes just how close this community of immigrants has become. Despite their considerable differences, these men understand what their friends are going through because they themselves are going through something quite similar. Because Moses is something of a leader or role model, he feels that his friends’ burdens rest “on his own shoulders.” This is perhaps because he has been in London the longest and thus takes it upon himself to guide people like Galahad through the trials and tribulations of adjusting to life abroad.
Themes
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
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 the day finally comes, though, he finds himself upset, wanting—for example—to kick Cap out, wanting to say, “Get to hell out, why the arse you telling me about how they call you a darkie, you think I am interested?” He wonders what he and his friends are doing in London, and each year he promises himself he’ll return to Trinidad. But when winter ends, he falls in love again with the city and says, “I will wait until after the summer, the summer does really be hearts.” However, he now intuits that he’s gotten so accustomed “to the pattern that he can’t do anything about it,” and with every year that passes, he stays exactly where he is: in the heart of London.
Although Moses doesn’t feel as if he has established himself successfully in London, the mere fact that he can recognize such a pattern or rhythm in his life shows that he has, in fact, settled into a new life abroad. Moses hasn’t attained upward mobility, but his recurring decision to remain in London signals the fact that he has habituated to life in this foreign city. Unfortunately, though, this life leaves seemingly no room for socioeconomic advancement, and so Moses finds himself trapped in a feeling of stasis.
Themes
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 to decide if he should return to Trinidad. He thinks about the time he spends with friends, wondering what it’s all worth. “Under the kiff-kiff laughter, behind the ballad and the episode,” the narrator writes, “he could see a great aimlessness, a great restless, swaying movement that leaving you standing in the same spot.” Moses imagines “black faces bobbing up and down” amidst “white, strained faces,” everybody “hustling along the Strand” as black immigrants try to make their way through, “bewildered” and “hopeless.” And he knows that his friends’ optimism only masks their sorrow, but he goes on looking at the river, listening to faint laughter in the summer air.
Even though Moses feels that he is forever “standing in the same spot” instead of climbing the socioeconomic ladder, there’s no reason he can’t also enjoy his existence. Indeed, upward mobility is just one facet of life, one that primarily has to do with money and wealth, and not necessarily with happiness or enjoyment. As such, even as Moses laments the fact that he and his fellow immigrant friends have unenticing prospects, he’s able to appreciate the beauty around him, and so he stares into the rippling water of the Thames and listens to the joyfulness of strangers walking in the summer evening, eking out a kind of contentment that exists apart from issues of racism, class, and culture.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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