When people are isolated, they get depressed and go crazy. In real life, babies fail to thrive if they are denied human touch. In the middle ages, banishment was an equivalent punishment to death. It denied people access to their homes, their friends, and their support systems. For many, it was a literal death sentence without an executioner. In its first episode, Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” openly addresses the need people have for human contact. It’s the moral of the story, but it isn’t the entire story.
The main character opens the story on a dusty road headed toward a diner that has hot coffee on the stove but is deserted. He doesn’t know who he is. There’s no one in the diner to help him or to help identify him. This character’s identity is missing because he doesn’t have anyone to measure himself against. He doesn’t have people who reflect him and tell him who he is. He has no context.
The first identifier he remembers is his nationality. He’s American. People draw a strong identity from their country and their birthplace. When abroad, Americans find each other and ask where the other one is from. It’s often the first question before what one does for a living. His job is the second thing He remembers. He’s in the Air Force.
But this character is still missing his identity. What’s his name? Who is his family? Why is he in a deserted town? Was a bomb dropped? He doesn’t know, and it’s not until he’s back among his Air Force command that he remembers everything that happened before the town. He has people to help him remember who he is. It takes a strong sense of identity to withstand isolation for any length of time. It takes others to remind us who we are, especially when we lose ourselves.