A Comparative Essay
Sometimes, though not always, different genres of work can share the same general theme, yet uniquely communicate it differently. In this paper I will be comparing and contrasting the content, form, and style of “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost and “I Used to Live Here Once” by Jean Rhys. I will be identifying the ways in which each expresses the archetypal theme of “The Journey.”
The narrator in each is obviously on a path or a road which symbolizes a journey of some sort to the reader. In our text, it is stated “When it is used in literature, persona refers to the person who is the narrator in a story or the speaker in a poem” (Clugston 2010). The journey can be any number of things ranging from physical to mental to even spiritual or emotional. Despite the beginning of a journey and where it leads, one thing is for certain, you will learn something along the way. Robert Frost’s character learns that it really does not matter which road you take, as long as you choose one you will experience many things in life. With Jean Rhys’s piece, ultimately she discovers that she has died. So ultimately a life changing event has happened to each in the end that was not known in the beginning. I think also that it is interesting to see that both of these pieces take place outside, which goes along symbolically with my journey theme.
Although both people take a journey of sorts, the characters don’t have the same attitude toward their paths. P.F. Basset describes Frost’s persona as “an individual as opposed to a loner, courageous and self-reliant, searching for his destiny” (Basset, 1981). Possibly at first glance, we might see this persona as a wanderer or perhaps even a drifter; however as we continue reading, he sees neither of the paths as more important than the other. Either way there will be an experience to remember at the end of the journey. Also Frost points out in the poem that sometimes we must make choices that perhaps we do not want to make, yet once the decision has been made, we cannot go back to where we were. In my opinion Frost’s ‘journey’ is about independence and individuality along the path of life.
In contrast to Robert Frost, Rhys’ persona starts out confident, knowing where she is in the safety of a known land, but becomes increasingly agitated and confused as it progresses. From known objects that change lightly to a realization she does not belong in our world anymore. The journey that this person has gone through or is going through can be characterized as being away from home for a long time and then returns. As Thorunn Lonsdale put it “The careful, but critical evaluation of the physical landscape, accentuates the narrator’s sentimental response to her old home.” (Lonsdale 1997). The journey that Jean Rhys writes about is one where we do know the destination and the path; however obstacles crop up along the way to the conclusion of the journey. It is really about the character experiencing familiarity, confusion and ultimately revelation at the end.
Frost I think chose the poetic form of storytelling to communicate this journey while Rhys chose the short story forum to portray a journey. According to our text, the definition of a poem is “The poet’s work requires (first) looking into ordinary things, examining their complexities, discovering insights and surprises that often are not seen in them, and (second) expressing what was observed or felt in the process. Poems, then, are a means of capturing what the poet experience” (Clugston 2010).
In both poetry and short stories, having written both, albeit not very well, a theme is communicated through the writer’s medium. Both forms require the use of language, grammar and punctuation in a proficient manner because we all know if just one word is off the...