All of us have two eyes, a nose, and two ears but we are different. What make us different are our attitudes, our thoughts, our decisions, and our responses to different situations around us. Some of us are indomitable to our ideas, some are not, and the extent of fortitude varies with the person. If we stick to our ideas persistently, we can go beyond the realm of possibility where impossible is a norm. That is what Robert Bach portrays in the first part of his novel, Jonathan Livingston- the Seagull, published first in 1970 (Bach).
The excerpt refers to Jonathan Livingston, a seagull, who perceives life and its meaning in a unique way than that of his flock. Flying to him is a purpose of life in contrast with his community that flies just for the sake of food. He strives harder and harder with perseverance and determination and ultimately masters himself in the skills and tactics of flight at a speed never attained before by any seagull, the terminal velocity. He succeeds in his attempts overcoming all the barriers coming in his way, combating the agony of failure at one time and facing resistance to the idea of flight by his parents at others. Despite being extricated from the flock for breaking all the traditions and aiming at achieving something unique to his community, Jon is very proud and honored for what he has learnt. He is no more an ordinary seagull. He has found a reason to live and he is not sorry for the price he has paid.
Bach, himself had been an air force pilot and his profession and appeal for flight has greatly influenced his writings. He portrays different facts by means of flight and motivates people to be determined in whatever they do (Richard Bach: Biography). In this specific text, the writer reveals different feelings of living beings when they meet success and failure, by elucidating them with a seagull that is actually resolute to make its mark.
The seagull is depicted as a symbol of determination, which has no boundaries or limits to which it can go to fulfill its dream. The dream to fly high at a speed which no seagull has ever achieved. The opening enlightens its journey to achieve the terminal speed and throws light on the opposition it has to face by its flock. The imagery that the writer has used in the text keeps the reader bound until the end as he moves forward to describe the experimentation of the seagull with its wings and the extent of its determination, which has no boundaries.
The feelings of living beings illustrated in the excerpt are so natural that the reader feels a reflection of his own self i.e. achievement giving it satisfaction and contentment at one time and failure rendering it half-hearted at the other. However, Bach employs the strategy of self-sympathy when he says that:
“I’m a seagull. I am limited by my nature. If I were meant to learn so much about flying, I’d have charts for brains. If I were meant to fly at speed, I’d have a falcon’s short wings, and live on mice instead of fish.” (Bach)
Though it reveals the natural technique one uses to alleviate the wound of failure, it goes against the writer’s theme of determination and firmness, limiting the broad span of possibility.
The author substantiates what he has said by appealing to the emotions of the reader, with the help of intuitive facts. The breaking of all the vows to accept the ordinary when one has touched excellence, and closing of eyes to overcome the fear of being collided with the other seagulls and ultimately die, depict the very humanly nature.
Moreover, throughout the text, Bach refers to the fact that whenever you try to achieve your goals, you cannot rule out the existence of obstacles. The society turns its back upon you, and people certainly oppose your ideas. It can be attributed to the simple fact that people are diverse in having priorities. For Jonathan, he had found a reason to live – to learn, to discover, to be free! (Bach) Nevertheless, the flock had different priorities.
“Life is unknown and the unknowable, except that we are put into this world to eat, to stay alive as long as possibly can.” (Bach)
The vivid expressions further refurbish the details as Bach goes on to explain the agony of failure by saying “climbed painfully to a hundred feet” and the excitement and the triumph by “his pain, his resolutions, vanished” (Bach). Furthermore, the tiny details of the efforts of the seagull and the use of apt imagery to portray the movement of wings add to the interest, constructing a clear image in the screen of mind.
The character of Jonathan Livingston is very fascinating as it is both very apt for the situation and naïve as a whole. Jon, being a symbol of fortitude, is vitally important and goes to the extent of craziness to attain speed. It never gets tired of putting in effort to learn more. Learning is the objective of its life. Besides, the innocence that the character depicts facilitates the development of ideas and implies the author’s outlook about the society. Jon seeks honor after unearthing a new reason to live for the flock, oblivious of the impediments one has to face when one breaks the norms and the customs of a society. It envisions the flock to get wild with joy, but the flock turns the table by making it stand in the center for disgrace and humility rather than honoring it.
“Centered for shame? Impossible! The Breakthrough! They can’t understand! They are wrong, they are wrong!” (Bach) illustrates the point of weakness. The exact feeling one has when there is no one to stand along one and everything goes against anticipation, so the author employs immunity as a resort for Jonathan to counter the opposition and, thus, live on its own.
Finally, the text is written in a peerless tone as Bach uses pathos to appeal to the emotions of the reader and grabs the attention of the reader until the very end. It provides the audience with a thought to strive for its aims, for possibilities exist beyond the scope of possibility, and significantly moves it to be resolute and optimistic about things. However, the writer does not provide any evidence for the claims he’s making. It’s just the art of persuasion that has gathered a large amount audience for the best-selling novel of Robert Bach, Jonathan Livingston – the seagull.