Study Guide

Alone Quotes

  • Isolation

    Lying, thinking
    Last night (1-2)

    Sure, our speaker doesn't <em>say</em> that she's alone here – but how many times do you lay awake thinking in the middle of the night with someone else? Not very often. It's fair to assume that our speaker starts out alone.

    That nobody,
    But nobody  
    Can make it out here alone. (8-10)

    See? Whoever it is that's alone, they're probably not doing so well. The fact that these lines become the refrain of the poem makes it oh-so-clear that isolation is a central theme in this poem.

    Alone, all alone
    Nobody, but nobody
    Can make it out here alone. (11-13)

    Yup. Whoever you are, you can't make it alone. We're so sure of it, we're going to say it three times over the course of three lines. Repetition much? That's what we thought, too.

    They've got expensive doctors
    To cure their hearts of stone. (18-19)

    It turns out that our typical methods of fixing problems – like hiring a doctor or a shrink – won't solve this sort of isolation. The heart doctors don't actually address <em>this</em> kind of heart – the metaphorical heart, which deals with all of our caring and loving.

    The race of man is suffering (30)

    Don't worry. You're not alone. Everyone feels alone. And that's the weird paradox of this poem: everyone is isolated. We're all isolated together.

  • Suffering

    How to find my soul a home
    Where water is not thirsty
    And bread loaf is not stone (3-5)

    It's interesting that Angelou describes loneliness as a sort of homelessness – except there's no way to go house hunting in this world. At least, not yet.

    There are some millionaires
    With money they can't use (14-15)

    Think that money will solve your problems? Think again. There's no particular way to pay your way into happiness.

    Their wives run round like banshees (16)

    Having money actually seems to turn people into something less than a human being. A banshee is a spirit announcing the upcoming death of another person. 

    The race of man is suffering
    And I can hear the moan, (30-31)

    Don't worry – we're all in this suffering together. Feel better? You probably shouldn't. After all, it takes our speaker to point out that we're all suffering. We probably wouldn't even know if not for her.

  • Spirituality

    And bread loaf is not stone (5)

    Wondering what this quote has to do with religion? Check out Matthew 4:3. It's a direct paraphrase! In the passage, Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread – but Jesus resists.

    But nobody  
    Can make it out here alone.(9-10)

    There's the possibility that "here" could refer to the earth…and that the only way out of "here" is to go to heaven. Or, um, other places.

    Storm clouds are gathering
    The wind is gonna blow (28-29)

    If we're reading this poem as a call for more spiritual growth, then there's the possibility that these lines signal some kind of apocalypse: a moment when the troubles in the world come to a crisis point.

  • Society and Class

    There are some millionaires
    With money they can't use (14-15)

    Why does Angelou single out millionaires? It's probably to emphasize that loneliness crosses all social and class barriers.

    They've got expensive doctors
    To cure their hearts of stone. (18-19)

    Once again, healthcare fails us! Money can only buy certain forms of healing – and the alone-ness that this poem describes doesn't seem to respond to traditional healing methods.

    The race of man is suffering (30)

    By assuring us that all of mankind belongs to a single "race," Angelou erases all social or cultural barriers. Everyone is suffering, regardless of his or her circumstances.

    Nobody, but nobody
    Can make it out here alone. (12-13)

    Notice how the speaker includes herself in the "here" where suffering occurs? It's a subtle form of social leveling: we're all part of this "here."  We all have to figure out this problem together.