Study Guide

The House of the Scorpion Isolation

By Nancy Farmer

Isolation

So Matt allowed her to go, but he was angry at the same time. It was a funny kind of anger, for he felt like crying, too. The house was so lonely without Celia singing, banging pots, or talking about people he had never seen and never would see. (1.10)

Matt begins his life in total isolation. He doesn't know or play with other children, and his only companion is Celia, who is gone for most of the day.

He could talk and talk and talk, but the people couldn't hear him.
Matt was swept with such an intense feeling of desolation, he thought he would die. He hugged himself to keep from screaming. (1.26)

We get an interesting contrast here between little six-year-old Matt's panic and despair and the narrator's own more mature voice, which uses words like "desolation."

Matt was frankly relieved to see them go. They were an unwelcome intrusion in the orderly world he had created. He could forget them now and get back to the contemplation of his kingdom. (5.110)

For the first time we learn just how psychologically damaged Matt has become due to his captivity. The only way he can deal with his powerlessness is by having total control over his sawdust kingdom.

He kept the blinds closed, even though the windows looked out onto a beautiful walled garden. He didn't want anything new in his life, no matter how beautiful. (6.76)

Matt is scared to deal with anything new, so he uses his blinds (nice metaphor there, Farmer) to shut himself off from the world. He's concealing himself from everyone else, and he's concealing the outside world from his own eyes.

She attacked the piano with a fervor completely different from her usual, sluggish self, and Matt liked to hide behind the potted plants to listen. (9.10)

When Felicia plays the piano, she comes back to life, even though she's still very alone. She and Matt have a lot in common both in how they approach music, and their low positions in the Big House.

The day after a birthday party was always a letdown. The power Matt enjoyed as El Patrón's clone vanished. The servants went back to ignoring him. The Alacráns treated him like something Furball had coughed up on the carpet. (12.4)

Whatever taste of power and popularity Matt had on his birthday has totally disappeared. On his birthday, Matt gets an idea of what it's like to be a normal kid. But as soon as the party's done, he's back to being less-than-human.

"What happened to the other people who crossed the border?" he asked.
"Them?" Celia's voice was flat and expressionless. "They were all turned into eejits." And she refused to say any more about it. (14.58-9)

Celia's backstory shows us just how alone she is. Before now, Matt's been the lonely one. But for the first time we realize Celia hasn't had it too great, either.

He felt a whisper of fear as he walked into the mountains. This time he was alone. (15.16)

Even though he's isolated, Matt has never been totally and completely alone. Until now.

He saw the Farm Patroller ride away and looked down to see he would have no trouble convincing the Aztlános he was a refugee. He had no backpack, no money, and he was covered from head to toe in black slime. (25.49)

Picture Matt standing all alone in Aztlán. Not only does he have no one to help him – he's got no stuff either.

'Chacho?" he called to the sea of bones turning gray in the predawn light. "Chacho!" Matt's voice was carried off by the breeze. "I'm outside. I'm safe. You can be too. Just come toward my voice."

No answer. (34.7-8)

What a scary moment. Even though Matt has just escaped death, he's more alone than ever. And imagine how horrible Chacho must feel, now that he's the only one left in the boneyard.

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