Symbolism to the Journey
ENG 125-Intro to Literature
April 22, 2013
A popular phrase that we have all heard or used at some point in our life is “Life is a journey.” This phrase has become a part of who we are or where we are going at times, in our past we have become familiar with this phrase and come to know the meaning behind it. When it comes to symbolism and literature, there are many words or phrases that are written and they generally have an alternate meaning, such as the use of “road” or “path” which is used to symbolize the journey of one’s life. There are two particular literary pieces that use these exact phrases and have the meaning of life and its journey. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost is a poem of a man that stumbles upon a fork in his path that he is walking, while ultimately having to make a decision on which way he wants to go. Used to Live Here Once by Jean Rhys is another piece that is a short story of a woman, who is traveling down certain familiar paths of her past. These pieces seem to show the same basic underlying meaning; however Frost describes two paths to choose from in life while Rhys describes a path that was traveled before her death, and now she is traveling it again in her after life. In these two literary works, there is the obvious symbolism of journey, and life which makes them even more appealing to audiences. When there are pieces of literature that are able to reach out and relate to a reader they are even more successful. Giving a hidden message and “eye opener” to a reader is powerful when it comes to writing. These two writers did just that in their pieces of literature. The writers used a great source of nature as a main setting which helps to give the readers a way to visualize and connect with the story they are portraying. The line “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” in The Road not Taken, gives a right away sense of the nature surrounding the character and presents a visual of what the poem is about. We continue on to the next line which reveals that the man is on foot, and then we get a sense of nature around him while walking down a road and coming to a fork in his path. The fork commonly representing a choice to take one or the other, when in reality Frost was writing with a choice of that as well as taking the middle path. The path that may allow him to combine the two into one life journey, (Rukhaya, 2012) allowing himself (Frost) to combine his desire to write poetry and to be a teacher. When first reading this poem it is as if the man is a drifter and making a decision on where to go next; yet when you read on you discover that it is a story of himself and his life. Jean Rhys writes of nature as well. Her story “Used to Live Here Once” starts with “She was standing by the river looking at the stepping stones and remembering each one (Clugston, 2010). This gives a nature theme, and symbolism of life’s path being traveled. In a powerful way she uses simple words, and a simplistic version of the nature around her, which allows the reader to insert themselves into the story based on and experience of their own possibly. When we think of life, the paths, and the journey we chose we intertwine them with nature and with glimpses of particular memories. When we think of our loved ones traveling during afterlife, we see them surrounded by nature and all things peaceful. Rhys married the two in her short story, allowing us to understand what she was saying and wanting to portray. Even though both have their similarities these literary works are different; many describe them differently and view them differently. 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). Unlike the story of the man in Frost’s poem, Rhys tells a story that of a woman by a river not a road; however they are both on foot. Also on the contrary to the man coming to a fork...
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Clugston, R.W. (2010), Journey into Literature. San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education Inc.
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