The End of Friendship in the Essay The Decay of Friendship by Samuel Johnson

Topics: Friends

Friendship has many enemies In his essay “The Decay of Friendship,” Samuel Johnson refers to friendship when he says “there is no human possession for which the duration is less certain,” He goes on to list some possible reasons a friendship could end, citing separation and opposition of interest first, but goes on to say that gradual decay is the most lethal killer of friendships, Fights can be resolved, but two friends who simply have lost their will to connect cannot be helped (Johnson).

This is the most common and also most difficult way for friendships to end, as a fight or disagreement can provide some closure for those involved, while simply growing apart can leave some open wounds that never properly heali No’e‘l Carroll thinks a little differently In his essay “Art and Friendship” he also discusses how friendships can end. However, he focuses on one cause in particular. Art, he says, creates the foundation and downfall of not only every friendship, but every interaction we ever have He refers to Yasmina Reza’s play, Art, in which a friendship between two characters, Marc and Serge, almost ends completely based off of different feelings about a particular painting.

Serge sees something in the painting that Marc does not, and Marc finds this deeply disturbing, Upon first glance the play feels exaggerated, as it‘s uncommon to hear about a friendship ending due to conflicting views of a painting But Carroll postulates that Reza’s concept is not that far off from something that could happen in real life.

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He says that “sensibility is one of the most important things that friends share” (30), and our tastes in art help to reveal our sensibilities to one anotheri Therefore, a friendship ending purely on the basis of different tastes in art is not that far off for him The loss of a friendship is not an unfamiliar concept to me My high school best friend, Chris, and I did everything togetherr He spent weekends at my house for most of senior year, and I spent Thanksgiving at his when my family was falling apart, He held my hand while I got my first tattoo and I held his hand after his boyfriend broke up with him, And then, one night in early September, Chris stopped talking to me completely. Just like that. One of the curses of being an actor is feeling emotions more deeply than those in some other professions, so I’ve been taking the end of this friendship pretty hard.

Every time open my phone and see one of his posts, my heart aches a little I have to turn off my phone and take 6 deep breaths or I’ll start to feel tears welling up behind my eyes. It’s dramatic, but it’s real, and it hurts. I need answers, and through these two essays, I’ve been trying to glean some. At first, reading Carroll‘s essay, I thought the claim that a friendship was built entirely on our mutual tastes in art was ridiculous There must be much more to a friendship, I thought. Our shared sense of humor or political views or ability to have intelligent conversations together must trump our shared taste in art, mustn‘t it? But then I took a closer look Chris and I met at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, a small private boarding school in eastern Massachusetts, Our friendship began on a school trip to see the musical Fun Home in New York City, and on the 5 hour bus ride there he made me listen to the soundtrack for Sideshow over and over again We spent the day walking around Barney’s, separated from the rest of our group, admiring expensive clothes and shoes and commenting on how we would one day be rich and famous enough to buy them all, I shared my love of makeup with him and he shared his love of fashion with me.

We shared an affinity for certain powerhouse singers and foreign winesr We even read the same books and shared our thoughts about them, an activity wholly irregular for most teenagers in 2016, While it is true that we shared similar political views and sense of humor, we didn’t discover that until later in our friendship, And even when we did disagree, we came back to the soundtrack of a musical we loved or a book we’d recently read and our friendship plowed onr Consciously or unconsciously, we knew we shared a sensibility based on our mutual tastes in art. Score one for Carroll. But then how did it all end? We didn’t have a fight over a painting or art piece like Marc and Serge. Chris goes to college in Boston, a mere three hour train ride away from my temporary home at New York University. Besides, in this day and age we were always able to keep in touch through various forms of social media, so separation couldn’t be the cause. Although Chris studies musical theater and I study acting, they‘re both different subsets of the same art form, so our interests aren’t truly opposed. According to Johnson, that leaves gradual decay — the most common and most difficult way for friendship to end.

That couldn’t be it, I thought, Beyond my desire to be anything but the most common, I couldn‘t feel myself growing apart from him. Johnson says that gradual decay occurs “when the desire of pleasing and willingness to be pleased is silently diminished,” and I was always willing, eager, even, to please Chris. I surprised him by flying to his hometown of Washington DC. with money my family didn’t have, I did all of his statistics homework during our senior year, hell, I even had pillows with pictures of his face on them sitting on my bed. For me, our friendship ended abruptly, not gradually, on that one night when he stopped talking to me. I left voicemails and text messages and Snapchats and he couldn’t bring himself to respond to a single one. Samuel Johnson published this essay in 1758 — what could he truly know about my friendship in 2016? But I looked a bit closert As painful as it was, I opened our text messages and scrolled back through months of conversation. I began to notice a pattern. Iwould text him three or four times in a row, just screenshots of Tweets I thought he would like or a particularly accurate horoscope, and he would respond with one word answers. Even earlier this month when he had to put one of our mutual friends into an ambulance while she was almost unconscious, my messages were long and wordy and his were monosyllabic.

This trend continued for months, but I was either too naive to see it or I simply didn’t want to. I continued to text him as if nothing was wrong while he distanced himself further and further each day. I am a victim of gradual decay, but only from one side. What Carroll and Johnson fail to address in their essays is that friendship requires teamworki Both parties have to be equally invested in the relationship, or it fails, This is monstrously unfair and can lead to a lot of pain and heartbreak, but it’s the nature of friendship and it cannot change. If I didn’t reserve the right to end any friendship at any time in whatever way I wanted to, I would never enter into another friendship — it would be too risky. Therefore, I have to be aware that Chris could also change his mind about the friendship, for any reason at all. It’s hard to be able to put all your trust into someone who could so easily throw it all away and forget about you completely, but it’s impossible to love without opening yourself up to the possibility of getting hurt, That being said, friendship should be unconditional to some extent. Friends shouldn’t cease their friendship without significant reasoningi And even when a friendship isn’t working, the person cultivating the breakup owes something to the other friend i a conversation, a phone call, anything.

Sure, you have a right to ghost your friend if you want to, but that probably means you weren’t a very good friend in the first place. As a friend (or former friend), you owe your friend some closure, some insight on the situation, and a conversation about what this means for you two going forward. Anything less is mean and not what friends do. I‘m still picking up the pieces of this broken friendship I plan to take the train to Boston to see some other friends this weekend— maybe I’ll see Chris while I’m there, and maybe I won’t Marc and Serge may have been able to resolve their differences, but I’m not entirely sure that Chris and I will be able to. Maybe we’ll talk and I‘ll achieve closure, or maybe we won’t and nothing will change, Either way, I have nothing to lose These two pieces aren’t the only published commentaries on friendships and the termination thereof 7 it seems everyone has something to say about this sort of loss, from Aristotle’s Ethics to Charlie Puth’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore It’s sad, but it’s also comforting to know that I’m not alone. And if they could all do it, then I probably can, too.

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The End of Friendship in the Essay The Decay of Friendship by Samuel Johnson. (2022, Oct 07). Retrieved from

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