Study Guide

The White Darkness Loneliness

By Geraldine McCaughrean

Loneliness

She and I sit down at the computer every evening, like spiritualists at a séance, and check for messages from friends we don't have, family we don't possess. (3.45)

This is a window into Sym's life with her mother. Sounds a little lonely, no? Here we thought one was the loneliest number, but peering in on these two makes two look pretty lonely, too.

I like people. I like watching them. It's just that I'd prefer to do it from a mile away using very powerful binoculars. (5.55)

Sym is shy and introverted. She finds being around other people to be difficult and exhausting. That doesn't mean she doesn't like other people, though.

"This place, I just miss everyone and everything like I'll go crazy if I don't see them right now." (10.11)

Mimi Dormiere-St.-Pierre feels lonely in Antarctica, which seems about right. Sym doesn't. Or maybe she does feel lonely, but she doesn't find that to be a bad thing.

There was a feeling that everything would be all right if only the plane came, offering an escape route; if only they were no longer totally alone at the bottom of the world. (10.62)

The Antarctic explorers do indeed feel cheered when the plane arrives. However, they feel decidedly bummed after it explodes. Nothing screams isolation like being stranded in the middle of nowhere.

And since the electrical feedback stopped me from using my hearing aids, I was sealed inside my own personal silence as well. (11.15)

In this instance, Sym can't hear because of feedback. But this passage provides insight into how her near-deafness is isolating. In this moment, she's in the middle of nowhere and can't hear.

At home there is nowhere you can stand—the playground, the garden, the high street—and not hear the drone of an airplane. But here in Antarctica it is the rarest of sounds. (11.68)

There's a lot of background noise in daily life that provides an auditory reminder that you're around other people. You take it for granted until you're some place quiet like the woods—or, you know, Antarctica.

"Don't struggle! Keep still!" I said, knowing he wouldn't understand me. Never could, never will be able to make myself understood. A goldfish speaking gibberish, that's me. (16.6)

Sym sometimes feels isolated because of her hearing loss, but she also feels isolated because she can't articulate the ideas that are in her head. She constantly feels misunderstood.

In fact my Titus never existed. Just a pretend friend. Just someone I invented, out of loneliness. (19.89)

Sym rarely feels alone because she always has someone to talk to: Titus, her imaginary friend. He's pretty good company for someone who doesn't really exist.

It's true: Everyone needs a reason to stay alive—someone who justifies your existence. Someone who loves you. (21.68)

Sometimes Sym feels like Titus, her imaginary friend, is the only person in the world who loves her. So when she finds out her father really loved her—she always assumed that he didn't—it's really important.

There is a hollow inside me big enough for twelve nesting planets and as cold as Outer Space. (22.46)

Sym has compared her interior landscape to Antarctica and outer space. So, um, just in case you didn't get the memo, she's a little bit lonely.

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