An inner journey is more than just movement from by bfo64690


									An inner journey is more than just movement from one place to another. It‟s about a

process of growth, learning and enhancement of wellbeing. These are gained through

experiences and challenges which result in discovery of new strengths. Inner journeys

are of the mind and spirit and determine our state of mind and our perspective of

ourselves and the world we live in.

The importance of inner journeys is illustrated in the texts “Empire of the Sun” by J.

G. Ballard, Robert Frost‟s poem “The Road Not Taken”, and Leunig‟s satirical

cartoon “More to Life”. In each of these texts the concept of inner journey is created

differently. “Empire of the Sun” is a semiautobiographical novel that illuminates how

the mind and spirit copes when your world is shattered and death is all around. It

traces an eleven-year-old Jim following the bombing of Pearl Harbour. The adult

perspective of the author is also evident and it is clear that his experiences of being

separated in a violent war torn world must have had enormous emotional and

psychological impact. Robert Frost‟s poem “The Road Not Taken” uses simple yet

powerful imagery in which we are made to visualise Frost‟s decision on which path to

take when “two roads diverge in a yellow wood”. Metaphorically the poem illustrates

the choices one is faced with on the road of life. In Leunig‟s satirical cartoon “More

to Life” a tearful angel stands on top of a dilapidated shed looks don on a tearful

Leunig everyman, metaphorically symbolising the minds of many people who find it

difficult to live life.

In “Empire of the Sun” Jim initially appears to be a typical privileged „rich kid‟ in a

society that he feels is inferior to his. His is a child‟s world – a mix of reality, fantasy

and imagination that was “lived wholly within an intense present”. Jim finds it
difficult to grasp the idea of death and poverty which he sees daily in the city of

Shanghai. Death to Jim is very impersonal, but as the novel progresses his view on

death is radically changed. With the outbreak of the war and the death of his parents,

Jim lives in a new and dangerous „present‟ where he has to think about the future to

survive. The war for Jim forces him to grow up quickly and causes a clash of

principles as his English upbringing developed a well respected and honourable

person but his new world was one where “kindness counts for nothing” and to survive

you must make yourself useful. Jim grows to develop deep respect for the enemy and

feels an increasing isolation from his own kind, the “tiresome Englishmen who

refused to grasp that they had been defeated”.

Jim‟s inner journey was one of confusion and often alternating emotions, from doing

anything to survive in a war struck world, to wanting to die being a hero and even to

feeling “guilty excitement of being alive at all”. However, Jim resisted death by

keeping his hope of finding his parents again, but as his hope faded he increasingly

welcomed death as a place where you are “safe”.

The forced maturity that the war had brought makes him feel he has journeyed from

childhood, but this idea is fleeting as he childishly mistakes the greatest act of

destruction ever – the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, as the bright light of a soul.

When the war ends, Jim struggles to grasp the idea that the war is actually over. His

war was one of a personal journey to survive – much the same way as the author‟s

journey would have been. This is shown through the detailed descriptions of the

traumatic experiences Jim goes through. This detail can only come from the real life
personal experiences one goes through in life. These experiences that the author has

endured have made an impression on the novel with and have changed forever his

attitude to war and humanity shown by its intense imagery using surrealistic


The book ends with these comments on the world and questions the meaning of war

with the author‟s increasingly present omniscient perspective of humanity. He shows

through Jim that it is the human arrogance, racism, desire for superiority and power

that sows the seeds of war and perpetuates the cycle of death. The incidents narrated

in the book represent an accelerated understanding of humanity and war, which is part

of the author‟s journey from which he can never return.

The narration of Frost‟s poem “The Road Not Taken” is very similar to Empire of the

Sun” as it is written from life experiences and the meaning is created through careful

choice of language and construction of mental images.

Robert Frost‟s poems involve very careful beat, meter, rhythm and rhyme, giving it

very classical poetic form. He uses simple yet powerful imagery, selective word

choice and symbolism, making his poetry very effective in getting the message across.

The title of the poem “The Road Not Taken” carries negative connotations raising the

question in the readers mind was it the road not taken by him or was it the road not

taken by others? Literally the poem describes the decision of which road to take when

faced with a fork in the path, metaphorically the poem illustrates the choices one is

faced with on the road of life. The fork on the road represents the encounter of having

to choose from two options, which consequently will affect the rest of life, possibly
physically, spiritually, and mentally – developing an inner journey within the


Frost deliberately develops ambiguity that he carries throughout the poem with literal

and metaphoric meanings, for example, the use of the word “yellow” suggests

autumn, and perhaps means the autumn season or the „golden years‟ of ones life.

Frost realises and effectively tells us that making choices is part of life and that these

choices have to be made one way or the other, even though many of life‟s choices can

only be made once. He says, “Sorry I could not travel both, and be one traveller”

meaning that both paths were equally weighted with consequences or benefits making

the decision difficult. The metaphorical undergrowth on the path relates to the

obstacles and difficulties in life, and that life can be a result of random choice, as we

can‟t always see far enough down the path to tell if it is the right way to go.

Frost contemplates his difficulty making decisions and suggests that the first step of a

journey is often the hardest step to take. In life we are faced with very similar choices

which seem to have no apparent reason and we examine what they may have to offer

but often we are not able to tell the results or consequences the road may present until

we are confronted by them.

The last line of the poem “and that has made all the difference” is very isolated after

Frost implements a new rhyme scheme, ABAAC, to that of the rest of the poem,

ABAAB. This creates even more ambiguity. The emphasis on the line makes it
difficult to tell whether it means good, and his life has turned out for the best, or

whether it means bad, and he regrets the road choice he had made in the past.

The simplicity involved in Robert Frost‟s poetry enables it to relate to the reader on a

personal level, and I believe that it is this reason which makes it effectively convey

the concept of a journey. The journey described in the poem is a universal journey

that every individual experiences – the journey of life.

The third and final text, Leunig‟s satirical cartoon and poem “More To Life” details

the difficulty involved in beginning a journey and taking the first step much the same

way the poem “The Road Not Taken” has done.

In the cartoon the angel symbolises the Leunig everyman‟s hopes and dreams. This

angel lands on the everyman‟s shed, “the little shed wherein my life is kept”. This

shed represents cold, hard, inflexible and rigid boundaries with no warmth or

compassion. This symbolises that he feels his life is very small and insignificant, and

he doesn‟t know how to change his meaningless life. The use of the strong visual

imagery gives depth to the cartoon. The portrayal of the run down shed, and the

everyman‟s slouched posture, signify hopelessness, sadness and low self-esteem.

However, the symbolic use of the angels open arms and saying “there‟s more to life

than this” symbolises hope to propel the Leunig everyman on his inner journey to

improve the situation. The poem promotes mutual despair about the inability to move

on, which Leunig demonstrates by saying “we looked into each others eyes and

This carton effectively describes the despair and abandonment felt not being able to

take the first step towards a better and more challenging life.

In all three texts the concept of an inner journey is clearly illustrated, however were

created differently. In “Empire of the Sun”, the main character learnt something about

himself including his identity and the society he lived in. Jim did not consciously

choose to embark on an inner journey but changed through circumstances enforced

upon them. In contrast, Leunig‟s cartoon had the option to journey but chose not to

and Frost, writing from personal experience, pauses to choose which path to take to

lead him on the inner journey he is pursuing. In these three texts the reader is affected

by these different inner journeys, some good, some bad, and as a result we have an

inner journey ourselves.

Meanwhile, across the world, there is an inner journey we are all embarking on. Since

terrorists hijacked three planes and sparked threats of nuclear, biological and chemical

warfare we have seen the birth of the age of terrorism. Almost daily we read in

newspapers of suicide bombings, car bombings, people taken hostage and the illusive

weapons of mass destruction. The world is a place much changed by terrorist activity,

and all of us have begun a journey that has seen the loss of peace, has placed us on an

increased awareness and a heightened state of alert and made us feel more weary and

less safe – a journey with an unknown destination.

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