’s “The Journey” Analysis Essay, Research Paper
?The Journey? We All Encounter
By Mary Oliver
Life is An ongoing Journey that all people must undergo. Mary Oliver causes the reader to fully experience the lifelong struggle of finding her/himself. Ultimately the common goal in this poem, and in our lives, is to show one?s need to find his/herself through the countless obstacles in our way.
The idea that this poem is ongoing and lacking stanza breaks can implicitly illustrate the notion that life itself is ongoing without ?breaks?. The view that through good and bad (obstacles), we all must go on is represented in lines 10-12,
?Mend my life!?
each voice cried.
But you didn?t stop.
Oliver is explaining to the reader that although we will discover many hardships in life, we must move on and continue our personal journey as seen in line 12, ?But you didn?t stop?.
The lack of stanza breaks also causes the reader to move more quickly through the poem. He/she is ?pulled? through the poetry because many of the sentences are short and contain only three to four words. Another cause of ?pulling? through the work is that many sentences are cut off and continued on the next line. Oliver is doing this to get an intense feeling across to the reader, the feeling of urgency and the definitive need to reach that final goal of life?s journey. The idea of urgency can be seen in lines 1-4:
One day you finally knew
What you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
The feeling previously mentioned of being ?rushed? through the poem can be compared to the quickness of life. Our lives go by faster than we expect. People don?t usually realize just what their goal of life?s journey is, until they finally reach the end. Oliver is quickly pulling the reader toward the end of the poem because that is where we find the reason or goal for this ?journey?.
Throughout the poem lines are interchanging from long to short to represent some of the ups and down we as human beings must endure while on life?s journey to find oneself. The ?ups?, or long lines, represent the moments when we are well on our way to success and achievement in life. An example of these ?ups? is line 13, ?You knew what you had to do?. This is one of the longest lines in the poem and is a positive statement that illustrates the ?achievement? of finding out what has to be done to gain the ultimate goal. Another long line in the poem is line 24, ?as you left their voices behind?. This line is another one of the longest and states the ?success? of leaving other people behind in order to get closer to your life?s goal. The feelings of sadness or frustration are seen in the shorter lines of the poem. An example of the ?downs? in life is seen in lines 4-5, ? kept shouting/their bad advice-?. These lines have only a couple words in each and state the negative side of life?s journey. The interchanging long and short lines can be seen throughout the entire poem. An obvious example of this poem?s ?shape? is in lines 17-19,
though their melancholy
It was already late.
Line 17 is long and proceeded by a shorter line. The short line 18, is then followed by the longer line 19. By showing the visual ?ups and downs? of ?the Journey?, Oliver is demonstrating that she recognizes that the journey is strenuous and difficult.
The hardships that come with life?s journey are also illustrated with Oliver?s word choices. Throughout ?The Journey?, the word ?though? is used four times. It is always the first word in a line and followed by a hardship one must endure to reach the final destination. An example of this is in lines 3-4, ?though the voices around/ you kept shouting?. Another example of the use of ?though? is in lines 14-15, ?though the wind pried/ with its stiff fingers?. The word ?though? is shortened for although. It insinuates that there is something positive after the hardships. Common to reality, ?though? things may go wrong, we must keep going on with our lives.
Repetition plays a major role in this poem. Oliver repeats the word ?do? several times in order to ?remind? the figure in the poem exactly why they are there. The first example of the word ?do? is in line two, ?what you had to do?. Another example is in line 13, ?you knew what you had to do?. Two examples are lines 33-34, ?determined to do/ the only thing you could do?. This is put in the beginning to make the reader form an idea and then repeated constantly till the end to emphasize that idea of ?doing? something to reach the goal of finding oneself. I found the most significant instance of repetition in lines 33-36,
determined to do
the only thing you could do
determined to save
the only life you could save.
The main repetition is with the words ?determined?, ?do?, and ?save?. These words stand out more than any other. These same lines are accentuated by the rhyme. Both the rhyme and repetition are used to stress the importance of these words. When put together, these last four lines of the poem are the most substantial. They tie the entire poem together and tell us what our goal is for ?The Journey?. Oliver mentions that the only person someone can save is him/herself.
This poem is about having to overcome obstacles. These obstacles are clearly seen in in lines 6-9,
though the whole house
began to tremble,
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
People are constantly being selfish and wanting to be saved, yet not caring that the speaker is attempting to save him/herself. Because ?old tug? is mentioned, it?s implied that the people surrounding the narrator often ask him/her for help. The obstacles throughout this poem are all the people wanting to be saved by the speaker. The ?outside people? are the source of the problems that hold back the narrator from completing his/her journey. Another example of people being obstacles is in lines 14-16,
though the wind pried
with it?s stiff fingers
at the very foundations-.
These lines tell us that the person on this quest to find his/herself, is up against something (the people around him/her) , as strong as a wind that could blow a house away. The wind uprooting or prying at the house is also related to the family being pried at and ruined. The family is the constant obstacle throughout the poem. They cause the speaker to be held back in completing his journey.
Critic Lisa M. Steinman states, ?As with romantic poetry generally, Oliver?s ?world? is centered in the self, or in the self?s quests? (428). A ?self quest? is exactly what Oliver has created in this work. I feel that anyone reading ?The Journey? can relate to the idea of struggling to find him/herself while having others clouding the path. People, or obstacles, constantly come in the way of people trying to find and help themselves, but eventually a person realizes they can?t save anyone in life other than him/herself.
Steinman, Lisa M. ?Dialogues Between History and Dream?
Michigan Quarterly Review . 36.2 (1987): 428-438.