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The Symbolism Of The Journey

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2037 words Published: 24th Apr 2017

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The symbolisms in the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost and the short story I Used to Live Here Once by Jean Rhys have a similar contextual moral aspect. Each piece of literature represents a journey that is taken by the character. The contrasts of the two literary works are the theme and tone of the works. The comparison of both works utilize the third person point of view. The third person view variation in “The Road Not Taken” is the utilization of the objective point of view. According to Clugston, 2010, “The third person technique is used in both the poem “The Road not Taken” and the short story “I Used to Live Here Once;” which is successful in allowing the reader to comprehend, empathize and visualize every aspect of the journey and how it was dealt with it.” (Kindle Locations 2423-2439) According to Clugston, 2010, these literary works utilize “An external narrator who takes a detached approach to the action and characters, usually to create a dramatic effect, and does not enter into their minds is using an objective point of view.” (Kindle Locations 2437-2439)

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The allegory and motif aspects of symbolism used in both; “I Used to Live Here Once,” and “The Road Not Taken” provide insight in to the characters present and past life. Another symbolism in the story “I Used to Live Here Once,” is the after death implication. This story implies the character has moved from life to death. It explores what the deceased is feeling and what they are experiencing after death. Another difference between the poem and the short story is the author Jean Rhys writes with a somber tone, reflecting on death and the afterlife. The depiction of the character’s stance reveals the somberness of her spirit. “Her arms fell to her sides as she watched them running across the grass to the house. That was the first time she knew.” (Kindle Locations 3792-3795) This is also the moment she realizes she has crossed over.

While the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost represents life and its choices to pattern or construct your life by or after. “Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same.” (Kindle Locations 783-784)

The comparative literary works use metaphoric symbolism throughout the content. The use of these metaphors is very simplistic. According to Aragno, 2009, “The classical view of metaphor (since Aristotle) as a product of language−the device of dramaturges and fruit of the poetic imagination−has given way to a modern understanding of metaphor as the way we initially process and articulate new concepts.” (p. 1) In the comparative literature the metaphoric symbolism is represented differently. In the poem by Frost, the metaphor is characterized by trees and roads. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth.” (Kindle Locations 778-780)

The allegory concept is displayed through the entire poem, which is a representation of the moral aspect of choices and decisions that are a factor of life. The poem infers two stages of life, younger and older. Frost uses basic allegory references to emphasize his point and view. “I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” (Kindle Locations 791-793) According to George, 1991 “Readers of “The Road Not Taken” have been warned by Frost himself against casual readings; he stated that the poem is “very tricky” and that its subtle mockery contains a “hit.” (p. 230) This allegory reference in the poem allows the reader to reminiscence on personal choices that were made during similar periods and phases in life. Likewise in the short story “I Used to Live Here Once also, allows the reader to envision “déjà vu” experiences encountered during life.

Pursuant to George, 1991, the literary speaker of this poem refers to an “older version of self whom he attacks. In many ways the speaker older and younger selves are alike.” (p. 230) This motif is similar to the short story motif where the speaker refers to life and death. Each speaker is referring to a journey in life that must be taken, whether wanted or not. Both literary works use a subliminal symbolism that resonates within the reader.

These literary works both implement a metaphoric and persona allusion of the author. Pursuant to Wolfe, 1977, “In the short story “I Used to Live Here Once,” “Rhys returns in spirit to the Caribbean home she had revisited materially in the third story of the book, “The Bishop’s Feast,” a description of her first homecoming, as a middle-aged woman, in twenty-five years.” This is “symbolic of the border she has just crossed, and looking at the local landmarks.” (p 300)

The persona technique utilized all through the poem and short story allows the reader to postulate appearances of the character from the narrative theme. According to Newman, 2009, “fictional characters are fully embedded in their discrete fictional contexts, their intelligibility is enlarged by the application of framing principles their study shares with our understanding of real human beings.” Newman further claims “that fictional characters, in addition to benefiting cognitively from the projection of actual-world structures onto them, contribute to our understanding of actual-world configurations by returning the projection back to their real-world prototypes.” (p. 73) This concept thereby provides credence to many readers conceptualizing the characters association to the authors. Each literary work bears some resemblance in a stage of the authors’ life cycle.

There is a comparative commonality of the recurring motif of various depictions of familiar and unfamiliar articles in both literary works. According to Aragno, 2009, “After Goethe, he showed that scientific, as well as literary, acuity may express itself through poetic imagery: the mark of this vital, spirited “envisionment” is that it results from the fine-tuned, creative observer’s efforts to concretize and convey new patterns of understanding.” (p. 31) This continual use of symbolism allows the reader to conceptualize different aspects of life. By continually viewing different aspects the reader obtains varied clarifications of the poem.

According to Gibbs, 2011, “Allegory is a cognitive action in which people apply a metaphoric mode of understanding to situations and discourse that typically does not contain metaphoric language per se. My claim is that allegoresis is not a specialized mode of interpretation, but a fundamental human impulse to draw diverse connections between concrete and more abstract experience.” (p. 121)

This theory in essence would account for readers’ interpretation of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” as a depiction of only one phase of life’s regrets. When in actuality the poem is reflective of life’s entire journey; it is “like looking into a mirror at what’s behind you.’

Viewing this same principle with Jean Rhys’s “I Used to Live Here Once,” readers must rely only on the abstract experience to conclude the character’s death. This complementary use of the allegory theme allows the writer to draw the reader in for exploration of the poem or story’s contextual and conceptual meaning. One comparative stance for these literary works is the use of an inexplicit empathy response from the reader. In “The Road Not Taken” the reader’s empathy is piqued by the text, “I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence:” (Kindle Locations 791-792)

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This section is inferring regret for choices made during an earlier stage of life, which invokes empathy and thoughts of broken dreams. In the short story “I Used to Live Here Once,” the reader’s empathy is vexed with the verse “Her arms fell to her sides as she watched them running across the grass to the house. That was the first time she knew.” (Kindle Locations 3792-3795) This last stanza of the story leaves the reader empathizing with the characters realization of looking from the eyes of death.

According to Coplan, 2004, “Several recent empirical studies indicate that readers tend to adopt a position within the spatiotemporal framework of narratives that is based on the position of the protagonist.” (p. 141) In addition, Coplan, 2004, also states “Empathy integrates cognitive and affective processes, creating a complex and dynamic psychological experience that draws on different capacities we have for connecting and responding to the world and those in it. The cognitive component of empathy involves using the imagination to undergo a shift from one’s own cognitive perspective to the cognitive perspective of the target individual.” (p. 143-144)

This natural psychological perspective trait allows the readers to identify and empathize with the narrative characters in both literary works. By empathizing in their imagination readers can experience the characters pain, emotions, and perspectives. This allows for the readers visual association without actual physical association. This is evident in “The Road Not Taken” in which it states, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth.” (Kindle Locations 778-780) This invokes the reader’s visual imagination of looking down a road or street.

In the poem “I Used to Live Here Once,” the following excerpt allows the reader to envision the characters excitement of being home. “The road was much wider than it used to be but the work had been done carelessly. The felled trees had not been cleared away and the bushes looked trampled. Yet it was the same road and she walked along feeling extraordinarily happy. “

(Kindle Locations 3759-3761)

The metaphoric, allegory and symbolic theme of the poem and short story assists readers in their cognitive and figurative visualization of the characters, their emotions, surroundings and the subliminal tone of the work. According to Gibbs, 2011, he states “My aim in this article is to explore some of the ways that everyday language reflects the allegorical impulse, as a general mode of understanding, and to offer some empirical evidence from psycholinguistics that suggests people’s unreflective abilities to draw allegorical connections.” (p. 122) In many respects each literary selection provides its own moral conceptualization for the reader to internalize and reflect upon their own life’s experience. New concepts and perceptions are realized as the text is reviewed by the reader. Pursuant to Gibbs, 2011, “One of the reasons poetry offers us meaningful insights about our lives is because they, too often allude to enduring allegorical themes.” (p. 123)

In conclusion, whether it is poetry or short story, a reader’s perception will determine how the literature is perceived. The comparative view of the poem “The Road Not Taken” and the short story “I Used to Live Here Once,” offers similar themes, motifs and symbolisms with a basic moral aspect to life’s journey. The literary works portrayed the facets of the difficult journey of life and the realization of the journey after life.


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