Study Guide

A Season in Hell Isolation

By Arthur Rimbaud

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We know from Rimbaud's biography that he wrote "A Season in Hell" while getting over a bad break-up with fellow French poet Paul Verlaine. (Check out "In a Nutshell" for more deets.) So it's kind of low-hanging fruit (plums, or figs maybe?) to say that this poem is about isolation. Of course you're going to feel isolated after breaking up with someone, due to all the, you know, alone-ness and such. 

The speaker here doesn't just suffer from isolation, though. He shows us another dimension of this phenomenon: he also craves it. As much as he laments his situation, he also wants to intensify it by escaping the conventional, Western society that constrains him. Sure, that's contradictory, but that's love and heartache for you. Why else would Facebook come up with the "It's complicated" relationship status button?

Questions About Isolation

  1. What might the speaker actually gain from being isolated in this poem?
  2. Who do you blame for the speaker's isolation? Why?
  3. Physical, emotional, or spiritual—which of these do you think best describes the speaker's isolation, and what parts of the poem give you your ideas?
  4. What, exactly, does the speaker need others for? What is he lacking that other people can supply?

Chew on This

The speaker has no one to blame for his isolation but himself. He's the one responsible for being all on his onesies.

Isolation is actually useful for the speaker. It helps give him the perspective he needs to comment on society through his art.

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