Study Guide

The Demon's Lexicon Isolation

By Sarah Rees Brennan

Isolation

Alan was checking the man's pulse, so Nick was the one who looked over at her and said, "It's dealt with. We don't need you."

Mum stood in the darkened hallway, watching him with pale eyes, and said at last, "I didn't come for you." (1.53-54)

Ouch. It's tough to imagine a mother uttering these words to her son, and yet… there they are. Clearly Alan's the one Mum cares about, and she has no qualms about letting Nick know just how unimportant he is to her. We're thinking Nick must have felt like the odd man out a lot of the time.

Nick always gravitated to […] the troublemakers in every school. The other kids avoided Nick, as if they could smell the violence on him. […] These boys thought every danger sign was a show of strength. They weren't afraid of him, and he needed a group. A boy alone got too much attention. (2.42)

Sometimes the loneliest place to be is in the middle of a crowd, and it seems like that's what Nick's got going on here. At school most kids avoid Nick, and the friends he does make? Well they're more like "friends" than friends, and Nick only hangs with them to avoid the extra attention he might draw as a loner—from concerned teachers, gossiping peers, and (perhaps) demons.

Mae and Jamie were not much alike, as siblings went. […] but they both had the same big brown eyes, the same heart-shaped face. They shared a few markers of kinship with each other, the small signs of shared blood that Nick would have wanted to share with Alan, and not with her [Olivia]. (2.50)

Okay, first off referring to your mom as "her" is a sure sign that the relationship needs a little work. Second, it's clear how much Nick wants to fit with Alan, which incidentally, would also give him a link to Daniel Ryves, who Alan apparently resembles quite a bit. If he had a visible connection with those two family members—instead of with the one who clearly despises him—he might not feel quite so separate.

Nick couldn't follow Alan up to Mum. She'd be upset for days if Nick actually went into her room. When she had her bad days, she needed the security of knowing that if she stayed in her room, she wouldn't have to see him. (3.26)

That's got to be a pretty horrible feeling: knowing that your presence will be so aggravating to someone that it will inhibit their health and well being. And when that person is your mother? Sheesh—we can't begin to imagine how many years of therapy it would take to deal with that burden.

Demons had to choose victims who were alone and unprotected, whose disappearance would not be noticed soon, and parents usually noticed rather quickly if a child disappeared or turned up possessed. (7.21)

Did you get that? In this book feeling isolated isn't just a major downer—it's downright dangerous. And actually, that might be true in life as well. People who are connected to others tend to live longer, happier, healthier lives, which means that demon attacks aren't the only health risks faced by people who are isolated.

"Oh, right," said Jamie. "Mae told me. Apparently you don't get scared."

"No," Nick said. "I don't. I don't waste my time with useless fussing around, feeling scared or anxious or what the hell it is you people do." (8.52-53)

Look closely at this quote. When individuals use the term "you people," they're generally referencing (in a derogatory manner) a group of folks from whom they consider themselves to be completely separate. But what particular group is Nick seen distancing himself from here? People who get scared? People who feel emotions? Or just… people in general?

"How are you feeling, Nick?" Jamie inquired, shifting uneasily on his seat. He and Mae looked rather alike just now, both staring at him with wide, frightened eyes. He recognized with a shock the fact that they both looked worried. (10.39)

Nick is so used feeling isolated from everyone (with the possible exception of Alan) that he can't understand why anyone would be concerned about him. What shocks him here is the genuine worry that both Mae and Jamie appear to have for him. He's so used to being on his own little island that the idea someone could be interested in his welfare is almost inconceivable.

Nick could have gone in, but he couldn't go in and be one of them. (12.105)

This seems to be the story of Nick's life—even when he's among people, he remains apart.

[Nick] turned away from the ordinary people laughing in the warmth, and wondered if magician's felt this empty and cold all the time. (12.106)

The first part of this quote clearly shows that Nick doesn't consider himself "ordinary." That's not to say that he thinks he's special or places himself above others, though—instead it seems to indicate how aware he is of the fact that he never quite seems to fit in. And the second part of the quote? That seems to show that Nick feel empty and cold—in other words, lonely and isolated. He wants to fit in, but he doesn't know how.

"It's all right now. You're free. You don't ever have to pretend to be one of us again." (15.82)

(Note: This is Black Arthur speaking to Nick.) For sixteen years, that's essentially what Nick's been doing: trying to behave as part of a species to which he ultimately doesn't belong. He's never fit, and now he finally knows why. But if all he's ever tried to do is find a place where he belongs, is he really better off now, being freed and knowing that he truly is one of a kind, unlike anyone else, and destined never to find a kindred spirit? We're not so sure Black Arthur's words of comfort provide any comfort at all.

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