The Analysis of Jonathan Livingston Seagull: The Anti-Mainstream Gull


Jonathan_Livingston_Seagull

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a novel written by Richard Bach, an American writer and pilot who has written many novels; Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970), A Gift of Wings (1974), Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (1977). Most of his novels tell about flying. It is because he loves flying since he was seventeen.

This novel tells about a bird named Jonathan who feels bored with his daily life. He wants to find something new and more meaningful things in his life. Even if he faces many obstacles in achieving his dream, he still walks on his way.

Seagull itself is a symbol in this novel. Besides seagull, there are many other symbols used in this novel. Seagulls, eating, flying, and heaven are the significant symbols in the novel.

This novel uses animal, seagull, as its main character. We will see it as a fable at a glance. But there is something deeper inside the novel. Seagull is a symbol which represents the human being.

By using seagull, Bach relates it with human being; how people deal with their life. Sometime people are faced to a dilemmatic problem; whether to follow their conscience or society opinion. Some people may succeed and some are not.

Those who succeed in dealing with their problems will transform into a higher level person. And those who fail in dealing with their problems will be dragged into a zone which is called “comfort zone”, just be ordinary; become a part of the society. It doesn’t mean that become a part of the society is bad. It’s just that they too enjoying the “comfort zone”. They will stay in that position in order to save their position in the society.

That phenomenon is related to “eating” in the novel by Bach. Ordinary seagulls learn to fly to get food and not more as Bach mentioned in his novel, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight―how to get from shore to food and back again. For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating (p. 14, part 1).

So when they see Jonathan practicing to fly higher, the Flock considers it as betrayal. They see Jonathan is different from the other. Jonathan is not ordinary.

“…for his reckless irresponsibility,” the solemn voice intoned, “violating the dignity and tradition of the Gull Family…” (p. 34, part 1).

Jonathan is a gull which tries to escape from the ordinary. He wants to fly higher―not like other seagulls―and that’s his target; his perfection. Therefore, he has to face the consequences of being different. He has to leave the Flock, practice hard, and be alone. This relates to human being. When people have decided to make a commitment in their life, they have to take all the consequences following whether they like it or not.

Successfully reaching his target―to fly higher―Jonathan finally reaches heaven where he transforms to be a more mature gull. Besides, he also becomes more religious. In there, he (Jonathan) realizes that perfection is only one more step towards our true nature which is in the image of the Great Gull (God).

Here, we can see that we can find heaven anywhere as we had reached our perfection, understood ourselves, and also understood others. It’s like what Chiang said to Jonathan when first time he reaches heaven, “Remember, Jonathan, heaven isn’t a place or a time, because place and time are so very meaningless” (Jonathan Livingston Seagull, p. 58, part 2). He also said:

“You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn’t flying thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.” (Jonathan Livingston Seagull, p. 55, part 2)

It is obvious, then, that we can have heaven in our life, our family, or in our job. It is just about how we maintain our problem and see the limitations as a challenge. Use our knowledge and be confident, then we can find the way as Jonathan said to Fletcher.

“Poor Fletch. Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly” (p. 92, part 3).

What about the society? Well, it is a complicated one. If we relate to the novel, society (the Flock) didn’t support Jonathan at all. They sent Jonathan out of the Flock, let him live alone, and consider him as a freak. Nothing’s good did by the society.

However, we cannot be such an egoistic person. Even if the society did something wrong to us, we have to share our knowledge to them, teach them to be better people. It is just like what Chiang said to Jonathan that he had to learn about love. It’s hard to do, but he had to. Jonathan, then, taught that to Fletcher.

“Oh, Fletch, you don’t love that! You don’t love hatred and evil, of course. You have to practice and see the real gull, the good in every one of them, and to help them see it in themselves. That’s what I mean by love. It’s fun, when you get the knack of it” (p. 91, part 3).

From the novel we learn that our (people) biggest obstacle is ourselves; our thought. If we keep thinking that we are ordinary, then we will become ordinary for the rest of our life. But if we always think that we can be extraordinary, so we are. It is all about choice, then, whether or not to be extraordinary.

References:

Bach, Richard. (1972). Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Great Britain: Turnstone Press Ltd.

Hackworth, Allen. Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Allenhackworth.com. Retrieved October 14, 2010, from http://allenhackworth.com/prose/jonathan.htm

Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Wikipedia. Retrieved October 14, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Livingston_Seagull

Richard Bach. Wikipedia. Retrieved October 14, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Bach

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An Analysis of “A Thousand Splendid Suns”: A TRANSFORMATION


about

Recently, because of tight schedules, I kind of abandoned my room – let it turn into a messy room. And yesterday I just got the chance to tidy it up. When I was cleaning the room, I found some novels which reminded me to my university time — the time when I was a university student. They were novels that should be read in my prose class. And one that caught my attention most was “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, a novel which gave me so many things to learn and a novel which able to make me cry since the first chapter.

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” is a novel written by Khaled Hosseini in 2007. This novel is Hosseini’s second novel. His first novel is “The Kite Runner” which an international bestseller. In writing his second novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, Hosseini was inspired by his visit to Afghanistan as UNHCR goodwill envoy in 2006.

In his visit Hosseini found out that Afghanistan at that time was extremely different compared to Afghanistan Hosseini once lived there. Poverty, hunger, and violence were all Hosseini see in Afghanistan; war brings them there. One that made Hosseini shocked was the role of women in Afghanistan; no protection and education. Back to the time when Hosseini was child, women in Afghanistan were equal with men. They could go to school to get better education and find proper job, just like his mother who could teach Farsi and History in Kabul.

Mariam and Laila are two major characters in Hosseini’s novel, “A thousand Splendid Suns”. Both of them are the representation of women in Afghanistan. They have different background, ethnics, and age but share the same experience. Something that really interesting for me is the characteristic of Mariam; how she transforms from a simple village girl into a great woman.

The story of the novel begins independently between Mariam and Laila since they live in different house. The connection between them started when a bomb fell into Laila’s house and killed her parents. Rasheed who is Mariam husband took her into his house. This is also the starting point of Mariam’s transformation.

Since Mariam was child, her mother, Nana, called her as harami — a child whose parents are not married, illegitimate daughter. This makes Mariam feel not accepted by her own mother. Moreover she lived in a kolba of a village named Herat where gossip can spread fast.

“You are a clumsy little harami. This is reward for everything I’ve endured. An heirloom-breaking, clumsy little harami.” (p.4)

Mariam had no friends. She spent all day long playing by herself. She was fond of playing marbles which were named as her family members. She couldn’t go to school, and the only lesson she got was Koran lesson from Mullah Faizullah, her mentor. These conditions caused Mariam tend to become an introvert girl. She preferred to do everything by herself and not depended to other people, even to her mother.

Nana, Mariam’s mother, was desperate by her life. Once she left by a man who almost married and then threw away by Jalil, Mariam’s father. Every time Mariam talked about Jalil to her mother, Nana always said that Jalil was a bad man. This made Mariam did not respect her mother. Moreover, Nana always called her harami and blamed her for Nana’s disgraced life, which made Jalil as the one Mariam praised.

A high expectation of her father later caused her fall and disappointed. She always believed that Jalil loved her very much. But one day when Nana died because she was hanging herself on a tree, Mariam realized that Jalil was not as good as she thought before.

Mariam’s disappointment got bigger since Jalil picked a man to be her husband. Rasheed was the name of that chosen man. He was a very rich man with many wives and children. Rasheed was forty years old, while Mariam was fifteen. At first, Mariam refused to get married. She thought that it was her stepmother’s effort to throw her away from Jalil’s house. But, the fact showed that it was actually Jalil who planned the marriage. Mariam’s trust to Jalil broken suddenly. Her sadness became deeper and deeper that she got married by forced.

“I thought about you all the time. I used to pray that you’d live to be a hundred years old. I didn’t know. I didn’t know that you were ashamed of me.” (p. 54)

Mariam and Rasheed got married. At first Mariam isolated herself inside the house. It happened until Rasheed encouraged and asked Mariam not to just stay in her room and bewailed her condition.

“… He crossed his arms.” I figured you might need some time. But this is absurd. A week’s gone and … Well, then, as of tomorrow morning I expect you to start behaving like a wife. Fahmidi? Is that understood?” (p.63)

Rasheed at first treated Mariam righteously as a wife. But, since Mariam couldn’t give him a son, Rasheed turned into a very mean husband. Being abused by Rasheed and nine times failed to have a baby made Mariam become a tough and mature woman. Besides that, seeing other women in her neighbourhood, who have many children, made Mariam become a woman who accepted her life realistically.

For the next eighteen years Mariam accepted her life together with Rasheed. But one day Rasheed came to the house with a wounded girl, Laila, a fourteen years old girl. Rasheed’s interest toward Laila, a fourteen years old girl, never came to Mariam. Rasheed’s decision to make Laila as his next wife hurt Mariam so deep. Mariam felt that Rasheed betrayed her. All her patience, sacrifice, and loyalty were nothing for Rasheed.

On the other side, Rasheed treated Laila so well. This made Mariam felt jealous toward Laila. For Mariam, Laila’s coming was only a reminder for her failure of being a real wife for Rasheed.

Mariam’s ego ended, later when she realized that Laila got the same treatment from Rasheed. She felt that she had to act. In her thought, Laila should not be like her; a woman with dark past life, unloved and rejected by her own parents, who couldn’t do anything to change it. Mariam decided that it was the time to change. To protect Laila and her children was then Mariam’s aim in her life. Even though it meant that it would cost her life.
“…And Mariam could not, would not, allow that to happen. He’d taken so much from her in twenty-seven years of marriage. She would not watch him take Laila too.” (p. 340)

Mariam’s promise that she would protect Laila and her children was proved when Rasheed tried to kill Laila, not long after Rasheed found out that Laila met Tariq for the second time. She killed Rasheed using a shovel and let Laila and her children go with Tariq to Pakistan. She let herself being jailed and executed by the Taliban.

The moment when Mariam sacrificed herself for Laila’s happiness is the proof of Mariam’s transformation. She could prove that her being rejected and isolated when she was child didn’t become an obstacle for her to grow up into a tough and independent woman. At last, Laila’s and her children’s love that changed Mariam, that made her realize of her precious life.

“… She thought of her entry into this world, the harami child of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident… And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back… Mariam thought, that she should die this way…This was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate beginnings.” (p. 361)

Well, the story is indeed touching, yet inspiring. It shows me different sides of women – delicate, yet very strong. It also shows me that problems are not entirely bad. Somehow, problems make us grow to be a mature person — tranform. They, unconsciously, force us to see the “real” us — our true strength. See, it’s just like Kelly Clarson’s song, what doesn’t kill you make you stronger.

References:
About – message. Khaledhosseinifoundation.org. Retrieved December 19, 2010, from http://www.khaledhosseinifoundation.org/about-message.htm
A Thousand Splendid Suns. Wikipedia. Retrieved December 19, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Thousand_Splendid_Suns
Hosseini, Khaled. 2007. A Thousand Splendid Suns. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Khaled Hosseini. Wikipedia. Retrieved December 16, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khaled_Hosseini