The Lonely Londoners

by

Sam Selvon

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The Lonely Londoners: Section 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Another interesting person Moses encounters in his hostel is Bartholomew. The narrator explains that Bart is the type of person who will hide the fact that he has money, just so nobody will ask to borrow anything. Indeed, he’ll go to great lengths to convince his friends that he’s broke, even skipping meals to give them the impression that he doesn’t even have enough money to eat. Another of Bart’s noteworthy traits is that he’s very light-skinned. “When he first hit Brit’n,” the narrator writes, “like a lot of other brown-skin fellars who frighten for the lash, he go around telling everybody that he come from South America.” A partier and a dreamer, Bart’s always talking about some decadent late night he’s recently had—experiences he’s able to afford because he is one of the few West Indian immigrants in London to have landed a well-paid clerical job.
Unlike Moses, who lets fellow immigrants stay in his apartment and generally helps his friends when they’re in need of assistance, Bart actively avoids contributing to the immigrant community. Instead, he pretends to be incapable of helping his friends, even though he actually has a comfortable job—a rare thing for a black person in London in the 1950s. Rather than embracing his friends, he not only refuses to lend them money, but also tries to set himself apart from them by claiming that he’s Latino, thereby committing himself to colorism, a form of racism that prizes lighter complexions. As such, readers see that Bart is something of a lone ranger, a person concerned first and foremost with his own prosperity.
Themes
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Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility Theme Icon
Not only is Bart eager to convince people he’s not black, but he also frequently worries about the influx of immigrants in London. “Many nights he think about how so many West Indians coming,” the narrator explains, “and it give him more fear than it give the Englishman, for Bart frighten if they make things hard in Brit’n.” Furthermore, he is outwardly embarrassed to be seen walking in the streets with friends if they’re “too black.” Nonetheless, these attitudes don’t spare him from experiencing racism himself, as “a few English people give him the old diplomacy,” making him no different from “one of the boys.”
Even though Bart himself exhibits a form of internalized racism by trying to distance himself from his black friends, he still has to face the harsh reality of London’s bigotry. When white Britons “give him the old diplomacy” and he finds that he has become “one of the boys,” his devotion to colorism suddenly melts away, and he’s forced to reckon with the fact that, no matter how hard he tries to ingratiate himself with white society, the country he’s living in is unavoidably bigoted.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
Immigration and Community Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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 finally says, “Listen man, you only coming here and eating my food all the time.” Bart says he’s only coming around to see Moses and talk to him. Although Moses sees through this weak lie, he still comes looking for Bart when Bart falls seriously ill, checking in on his friend to make sure he’s alright.  
Yet again, Moses’s kindness is apparent, as are the ways in which his friends unselfconsciously take advantage of his generosity. When Bart claims that he comes to Moses’s apartment to “talk,” he exploits the fact that the immigrant community values camaraderie. Pretending to gravitate toward the kind of “old talk” that often takes place in Moses’s apartment, Bart plays on his friend’s commitment to fostering a cohesive and mutually supportive group of expatriates.
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Bart is rather unsuccessful when it comes to courting women, but he quickly falls in love with a white woman named Beatrice, who dates him for a short period of time. Before long, he resolves to marry her, so Beatrice takes him home to meet her parents. At first, things go well—Beatrice’s mother lets them in and seats Bart in the drawing room. Suddenly, though, her father bounds into the room with his finger pointed at Bart. “You!” he screams. “What are you doing in my house? Get out! Get out this minute!” In response, Bart stammers that he’s Latin-American, but Beatrice’s father ignores him, wanting to throw him out “because he don’t want no curly-hair children in the family.” 
This is one of the few times in The Lonely Londoners when racism rears its head in a manner that is direct and overt. As both the narrator and Moses have pointed out, bigotry in London is normally expressed as the “old English diplomacy,” understated and implied rather than forthright and pronounced. In this moment, though, Bart must suddenly face blatant racism, as Beatrice’s father runs him out of the house, making it all too clear that the reason he isn’t welcome is that he’s not white. 
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
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Despite his failure to impress Beatrice’s parents, Bart continues seeing her, terrified he’ll never be able to date another white woman. However, she begins to fade away, distancing herself from him little by little until, finally, she moves to a new apartment without telling him. Desperate to find her, he goes throughout London, looking in crowded streets and buses for her face. After a while, he quits his clerical job in order to work as a doorman at her favorite nightclub, where he stands each night hoping she’ll appear before him. Ending this description of Bart and his various quirks, the narrator writes: “It have men like that in the world, too.”
Whereas Cap manages to benefit from his romantic and sexual relationships, Bart essentially loses everything due to his obsession with Beatrice. Unable to marry her because of her racist father, he gives up his clerical job, the most valuable asset he has when it comes to attaining upward mobility. In this way, he sacrifices his financial stability. This is a stark reversal of how most romantic relationships play out in The Lonely Londoners, a novel in which men frequently get women to make sacrifices in the name of love. As such, the fact that Bart (and not Beatrice) ends up disempowered explains the narrator’s remark that “it have men like that in the world, too.” 
Themes
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Romance and Sex Theme Icon
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