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Two Literary Works That Symbolizes Life as a Journey

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Two Literary Works That Symbolizes Life As A Journey

Our own mortality often reminds us that life is a journey. Many literary works often times stimulate us to reflect on our own lives by using a road or path to symbolize a person's life as a journey. Just like a road or path may have many stops and sights to see, so does life. Life metaphorically described as a journey is based on the many experiences we encounter in life and reminisce time and time again as we grow older and somewhat wiser. The short story "I Used to Live Here Once" by Jean Rhys is about a woman who is walking a road reflecting on sights she remembers from the past. In the poem "The Road not Taken" by Robert Frost, a man comes upon a split in the road he is walking and must make a decision as to which of the two new roads he should take to continue his journey. Through various literary techniques such as the settings, plots, narrative perspectives, styles, and themes both the short story and the poem illustrates and supports the symbolic references to life as a journey.

The concept of a journey has different meanings for different people. Some consider a journey as merely as a distance they have traveled to get to a particular destination, but they overlook that there can be great meaning hidden within each step taken. Most often, people tend to focus on the final destination and fail to recognize the value that is gained from the path they travel to reach it. Whether directly or indirectly many literary authors use journey as a metaphor for life. In the short story by Jean Rhys and the poem by Robert Frost there are many similarities and differences in using a journey as a metaphor. The authors' use of describing a path helps them personify life's journey and self-reflection.

A literary technique, also known as literary device, is any standardized method an author uses to convey his or her message (Literary Technique, n.d.). Those techniques include setting, plot, narrative perspective, style, and theme. The term literary technique refers to specific aspects of literature, in the sense of its universal function as an art form that expresses ideas through language, which we can recognize, identify, interpret, and analyze. It is the means by which author use to create meaning through language, and that readers use to understand and appreciate their works. Jean Rhys, the author of "I Used to Live Here Once," focuses on the world of the lonely, the outcast, the vulnerable. Her central characters are all women who live in a world they cannot control, which regards them with indifference and cruelty (Aubrey & Rollins, 2001). Robert Frost, the author of "The Road Not Taken," was an American poet who is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life. His works frequently employs the settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and philosophical themes (Robert Frost).

The setting in a narrative is often a feature that attracts the reader's imagination initially. Setting is the time or place in which the action occurs. It puts boundaries around the action and defines the environment in which conflicts can be witnessed and character development observed (Clugston, 2010). In both "I Used to Live Here Once" and "The Road Not Taken" nature is used as the setting. Jean Rhys without delay within the first sentence of "I Used to Live Here Once" a sense of nature, "She was standing by the river looking at the stepping stones and remembering each one" (as cited in Clugston, 2010, section 7.5, para 1). Rhys uses simple language to engage the reader to use their imagination in relation to the reader's own experience. After that the woman in the story crosses the river and finds herself on a wide road. In "The Road Not Taken," Robert Frost uses the first line, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood" (as cited in Clugston, 2010, section 2.2). The narrator comes upon a fork in the road while walking through a yellow woods. According to "Journey Into Literature," the color yellow means the approach of decay or aging (Clugston, 2010), which serves to visualize the rest of the poem. Frost who starts the poem with the narrator on the road, while Rhys starts the journey of the woman by crossing a river, which brings her to a road. Though from different genres, a short story and a poem, both works make use of a natural setting to draw the reader at ease into the story, which will be narrated.

The plot is a dynamic element in fiction, a sequence of interrelated, conflicting actions and events that typically build to a climax and bring about a resolution. Plots capture the reader's attention from the moment that particular circumstances set conflict in motion (Clugston, 2010). In Jean Rhys' short story the main character, a woman whose name is not revealed, is represented in constant movement. She walks through a place she used to live in, a place that time has changed a lot. She notices every detail, every little thing different from what she remembers of that place. Her memories are strong, just as she describes the features of every stone while crossing the river, "...looking at the stepping stones and remembering each one. There was the round unsteady stone, the pointed one, the flat one in the middle--the safe stone where you could stand and look around" (as cited in Clugston, 2010, section 7.5, para 1). As the plot unfolds the reader begins to get the image that the woman is on some sort of journey. She is taking a trip down what seems to be a familiar path, yet along the way the author points out some notable differences. The plot further develops as the woman continues on her journey comparing what she remembers to what she physically sees now. Soon afterwards, the woman tries to interact with the environment when she sees children under a mango tree who she calls out to, but seem unable to hear her. Eventually she makes her way close to the children, "When she said for the third time 'Hello' she was quite near them. Her arms went out instinctively with the longing to touch them. It was the boy who turned. His grey eyes looked straight into hers. His expression didn't change. He said: 'Hasn't it gone cold all of a sudden.' Her arms fell to her side as she watched them running across the grass to the house" (as cited from Clugston, 2010, para 8). From this the plot end with both the woman and reader realizing that the woman was a spirit of sorts, a ghostly apparition whose journey into the afterlife brought her to where she use to live when she was alive. The protagonist has become an alien to her familiar surroundings. In the sense that



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