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Running Head: JOURNEY

The Journey Alan L. Schroeder ENG 125 Instructor: Cathy Cousar July 23, 2012

JOURNEY Sometimes separate works can share the same general theme, yet communicate it in unique ways. This paper will be comparing and contrasting the content, form, and style of The

Road Not Taken by Robert Frost and I Used To Live Here Once by Jean Rhys, to identify the ways in which each expresses the archetypal theme of The Journey. The personas in both poems are obviously on a physical road or path, which symbolizes a journey of some sort. The text says that When it is used in literature, persona refers to the person who is the narrator in a story or the speaker in a poem (Clugston, 2010). Journeys can be physical, mental, emotional, or even spiritual. No matter where the journey leads, one thing in common with all journeys is that you will learn something along the way. Frosts character learns that its not entirely important which fork you take; as long as you choose one you will experience what life has to offer. Although Rhys story comes to a very dramatic conclusion, with the character realizing that she is actually deceased. The result is the same as other journeys, in that something important is revealed to her persona that was not known before the journey began. It is also interesting to note that both selections take place outdoors, which is symbolically appropriate for the journey theme. A physical journey is a great metaphorical equivalent of any other journey, be it emotional, mental, or spiritual. Though they both traverse one, the characters do not seem to have the same attitude toward their paths. P.F. Basset describes Frosts persona as an individual as opposed to a loner, courageous and self-reliant, searching for his destiny (Basset, 1981). At first glance, it could be mistaken for a wanderer or drifter, but further reading reveals that he sees neither path as any more important than the other and that either way you will have an experience to remember when you get to the end. He also illustrates the point that there are certain times in our lives where we have to choose one thing over another, and that it is not possible to go back once


you have done so. Frosts journey is about independence, experience and individuality along the path of life. By contrast, Rhys persona starts out confident in a familiar land, but then becomes increasingly agitated and confused as the story progresses. From certain known objects changing slightly, to realizing she does not even exist in the physical world anymore, the journey this character makes can be identified with by anyone who has been away from home for an extended period of time and then returns. As Thorunn Lonsdale puts it, The careful, but critical, evaluation of the physical landscape, accentuates the narrator's sentimental response to her old home(Lonsdale, 1997). The journey Rhys writes of is one where the reader knows the destination, and also knows the path, but where unexpected obstacles spring up along the way. It is about the character experiencing familiarity, confusion, and then finally ultimate revelation. Robert Frost chose the poetic form to communicate his characters journey while Jean Rhys used the short story form to portray her characters journey. Our text says this regarding the definition of a poem: The poets work requires (first) looking into ordinary things, examining their complexities, discovering insights and surprises that often are not seen in them, and (second) expressing what was observed or felt in the process. Poems, then, are a means of capturing what the poet experienced. (Clugston, 2010) In both poetry and short stories, a theme is intended and communicated through the authors medium. Both forms require proficiency with language, grammar and punctuation, but literary elements such as rhythm, rhyme, meter, tone, and alliteration differentiate poems from short stories and dramatic works. These all draw the reader closer to understanding the theme

JOURNEY that the author intends. The one thing that stands out about both pieces, in this case, is the absence of a plot. The text defines plot as a dynamic element in fiction, a sequence of interrelated, conflicting actions and events that typically build to a climax and bring about a resolution (Clugston, 2010). In The Road Not Taken, the characters only action is choosing which path to take. There is barely any internal conflict involved with that decision either, because the poem states Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; (Frost, 1916). The only reason that path was

chosen was because no one else had walked on it recently. In the last two lines he tells the reader that he is happy with this decision when he says, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference (Frost, 1916). In I Used To Live Here Once, there is definitely a climax, but the story ends with one line, That was the first time she knew (Rhys, 1976), which lacks any resolution. Both of these things push the boundaries of the fundamental definition of plot. Although the syntax is similar, the forms of poems and short stories arent exactly alike. I believe that the major difference between poems and short stories is that poetry tries to convey its meaning through literary devices such as rhyme and alliteration, while short stories rely on symbolism, setting, and character to create the theme. I will cover poetrys stylistic elements later in that section, and have touched on the short storys in the previous section about content . Another difference is poetrys unique placement of words. Even though normal sentence structure is maintained, the lines are split at key points to make them last words rhyme. Although not always present in poetry, Frost uses rhyme in The Road Not Taken, to create a sort of rhythm as someone reads it linking the first, third and fourth lines to each other, and the second and fifth. Here is an example to illustrate my point:

JOURNEY Two roads - diverged - in a yel-low wood, And sorry- I could -not tra-vel both And be - one traveler, long - I stood And looked - down one - as far as - I could To where - it bent - in the un-dergrowth. (Frost, 1916) I have italicized one group of rhymes, and underlined the other. Frost also sets up a simple pattern of, what I consider to be, iambic tetrameter, (the iambs being separated by dashes). I believe that Frost knew the inherent rhythm that this scheme creates in the readers mind, and chose the format for this reason. According to the Encyclopdia Britannica Online a tetrameter is a, line of poetic verse that consists of four metrical feet. In English versification, the feet are usually iambs (an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one, as in the word be|cause ), trochees (a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one, as in the word ti|ger), or a combination of the two (iambic, 2012). I used a somewhat liberal interpretation of the

term, and actually applied it across multiple words, but that is the way it flowed in my head when I read the poem. Marie Borroff has this to say on the topic of sound symbolism: Because the expressive power of poetic language is an embodied power, manifesting itself to the outward or inward ear in sequences of syllables made up of vowel and consonant phonemes, sound symbolism remains an essential topic of investigation in theoretical and practical criticism alike. (Borroff, 1992)


I believe it is for exactly this reason that Frost chose to express his characters journey in the form of a poem. Frost seemed to understand that the way words roll off the tongue, or bounce off the ear, make the reader or listener receive his information in a different way than a short story. Despite the two different forms, the pieces share some stylistic aspects. Both selections use a similar style of descriptive words to describe the natural setting surrounding the characters. Frost uses phrases such as the yellow wood, grassy and wanted wear, and no step had trodden black(Frost, 1916), to evoke a mental image of the characters surroundings. Rhys says things like round unsteady stone, the pointed one, the flat one in the middle, and The felled trees had not been cleared away and the bushes looked trampled(Rhys, 1976), to communicate the details of the setting clearly and creatively. The diction is pretty straight-forward and denotative because in both selections the authors describe physical details of the roads. Since the symbolism of the journey is already understood, the author is free to delve into the literal details surrounding the character on their path. Both selections also share a cumulative or loose sentence syntax which is defined by About.Com as An independent clause followed by a series of subordinate constructions (phrases or clauses) that gather details about a person, place, event, or idea (Nordquist, 2012). The main information is usually put forward first, followed by details. An example of Rhys is, The road was much wider than it used to be but the work had been done carelessly (Rhys, 1976). Her main point communicates the dimensions of the road, followed by the characters personal opinion about how it may have come to be. Even though Frost chose to use a poem, he also writes senteces this way, such as, Two roads diverged in a yellow wood (Frost, 1916). His


main point being the entire theme of his poem, the fork in the road, the yellow wood is an ascetic detail. The main difference in styles is that Frost is noticeably more formal than Rhys.. This could be due to the sixty year timespan between the two works, but it is noticeable regardless. For instance Frost writes quite formally, And both that morning equally lay. In leaves no step had trodden black Frost, 1916). I could imagine an informal phrasing which would read something like this: Both paths were covered with leaves that no one had stepped on. In poetry, the author usually arranges his thoughts with carefully selected words to emphasize stylistic aspects such as rhyme and alliteration while short story structure is usually arranged based on revealing pieces of the plot, setting, or character. Although many works can share the same theme, the authors decision of how to portray it depends on things like content, form, and style. We all know of poems, songs and stories that have been written about the same thing, yet sound drastically different. Creative descriptions and cold-hard facts offer different perspectives into the same situation. Robert Frost and Jean Rhys were from separate times and spaces, yet both succeeded in communicating their version of the archetypal journey in their own individual ways.

JOURNEY References: Bassett, P. F. (1981). Frost's The Road Not Taken. Explicator, 39(3), 41. Retrieved from: http://web.ebscohost.com/ Borroff, Marie. (1992). Sound Symbolism as Drama in the Poetry of Robert Frost. Modern Language Association. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462806 Clugston, R. Wayne. (2010). Journey into Literature. (Ashford University ed.). San Diego,CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Retrieved from: https://content.ashford.edu/

Frost, Robert. (1920). The Road Not Taken. Mountain Interval. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company. iambic tetrameter. (2012). In Encyclopdia Britannica. Retrieved from: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/280450/iambic-tetrameter Lonsdale, T. (1997). Displacing the heroine : location in Jean Rhys's short stories "Let them call it jazz", "Mannequin" and "I used to live here once". Journal of the Short Story in English. Retrieved from: http://jsse.revues.org/index130.html Nordquist, Richard. (2012). Cumulative Sentence. About.Com: Grammar & Composition. Retrieved from: http://grammar.about.com/od/c/g/cumulativesentencegloss.htm Rhys, Jean. (1976). I Used To Live Here Once. Sleep It Off Lady. New York, NY: Wallace Literary Agency, Inc.