The Theme of Loneliness in David Nicholls’ One Day Essay

June 9, 2022 by Essay Writer

Updated: May 2nd, 2019

The novel One Day written by David Nicholls shows it might be difficult for two people to admit that they love one another. Yet, without this feeling they are most likely to be discontented with the quality of their lives and become alienated from others.

In part, this self-contradiction can be explained by some of gender stereotypes rooted in our culture, especially the unwillingness of both sexes to admit their emotional weaknesses. In his novel One Day David Nicholls attempts to show that love is the best and probably the only way to overcome loneliness and discontent. The author relies on plot structure and character development in order to demonstrate this idea.

Each chapter of the novel describes two characters, Emma and Dexter on St. Swithin’s Day. July 15 occupies a prominent part in their lives because this is the day when they first spent a night with one another. This parallel structure of the plot shows that these people can still feel affection toward each other.

Secondly, one should mention Dexter and Emma decided to settle in London without knowing about each other’s intentions. It seems that the writer deliberately wants to attract the readers’ attention to the idea that these people gravitate toward one another. These elements of the plot suggest that Emma and Dexter will eventually understand that love can tie them together.

Furthermore, it is important to speak about character development and ability to depart from conventional gender stereotypes. Our culture does not allow a man to show that he is emotionally dependent on a woman. He does not only have to be physically strong, but also emotionally independent.

To some degree, Dexter falls a victim to these stereotypes. Despite the fact that he becomes a very successful television presenter and a well-to-do person, he understands that his life lacks some essential element. He feels lonely and this is one of the reasons why he develops a drinking habit.

This is how David Nicholls describes Dexter at one moment of his life, “He lies there awake at 9; 30 dread and self-loathing combined with sexual frustration” (Nicholls, 117). Yet, Dexter is unable to identify the underlying cause of this frustration and self-loathing. He also begins to travel in effort to forget his feeling of loneliness, but these efforts do not bring him relief.

Although he does not want to say it explicitly, Dexter eventually admits that without Emma his life is worth very little. This is how Dexter describes himself, “Without her he is without merit or virtue, or purpose, a shabby, lonely, middle-aged drunk, poisoned with regret and shame” (Nicholls, 405).

By making this admission, Dexter is able to deviate from conventional stereotypes according to which a man has to conceal and hide his weaknesses or emotions. This inability to give a vent to ones feelings drives him into alcoholism and addiction. Overall, David Nicholls skillfully depicts Dexter’s inner world and his deep sense of dissatisfaction.

Emma experiences are in many similar to those ones of Dexter. She writes plays and tries numerous jobs. At the beginning, she was willing to “change the world” for the better (Nichols, 3). Yet, she is not very successful in her attempts. She does not want to admit that she loves Dexter. Emma even tries to reject this idea when she asks Dexter not to “patronize” her as if she were a lonely old lady (Nicholls, 341).

Again, it is possible to refer to some of sexual stereotypes common among modern people. For example, Dexter believes that Emma desperately needs his support, but she cannot readily acknowledge it. On the whole, one can argue that these people do not want to accept the premise that they need emotional support from someone else.

To some extent, Emma’s behavior is similar to that one of Dexter; she is also “keen to vent some of her frustration” but she does not understand what lies behind it (Nicholls, 246). The readers can surely see that their frustrations bear close resemblance to one another.

Therefore, David Nicholls shows how these people come to the belief that they love one another, and this is an essential part of their character development. The relations between these people show that both genders cannot readily admit their dependence on one another. This is the reason why Dexter and Emma feel discontented with their lives.

One Day differs in some ways from many conventional romances. The thing is that it portrays the life of two people who definitely love one another, but they are not willing to admit it to themselves. Certainly, their married life can also be tarnished by misfortunes but they are nothing compared to the feeling of loneliness that they have when they are separated from one another.

To some degree this self-contradictory behavior can be ascribed to some of the sexual stereotypes which are still prevalent in modern culture, in particular the attempts of both genders to deny their weaknesses and sufferings. Emma and Dexter can be viewed as examples of many modern people who try to fight their discontent and loneliness and fail to pinpoint their major cause.

Works Cited

Nicholls, David. One Day. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2009. Print.

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