The journey may offer life-changing experiences, but it is ultimately the path taken by the traveller to overcome obstacles, equipping the traveller with fresh experiences, perspectives and insights of the world around them. Through a variety of language techniques, these notions are explored in “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. It is a dark journey, a parable of men journeying through a world of pitfalls and impossible dreams, exploring the difficult idea that not all journeys lead to expected ends. “Barn Owl”, by Gwen Harwood is a bildungsroman poem that depicts the relationship between a child and her father. The poem explores the inner journey of losing of innocence during childhood, the reality and shocking nature of mortality, resulting in gaining knowledge and self-perspective. Hence, both authors use their distinct and unique evocative techniques to create emotional rapport with the responder and enhance their understanding of the characters and their personal experiences through the journeys they undergo.
Journeys can be driven by aims of escaping to a better place, but the process itself is just as significant as it shapes the outlook of the traveller. Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” has a strong social critique embedded throughout the novella, concerning the common aspiration of the “American Dream” during the Great Depression. The American Dream was no more, and the land of opportunity had become the land of misfortune. This subject is the predominant theme in John Steinbeck’s novel through the two migrants George and Lennie. They hold the shared ambition to “get the jack together”, purchase “…a little house a couple of acres and a cow and some pigs…” and “live on the fatta the lan”, expressing their desire to reach objectives on their journey of achieving the American Dream. Yet many obstacles lie in their way. Lennie, a childlike-minded man with an incredible strength “…his big paw…”, “half-witted” and a “simpleton”, knows that he needs George to guide him through the dangers of the world. While to George, Lennie’s companionship is set him apart from other workers “Guys like us…, are the loneliest guys in the world…They don’t belong no place…They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to. The abject poverty and discontentment force them to take on the journey out of their familiar zone in the town of “Soledad”, whose name is a metaphor of “solitude”, “alone”, foreshadowing the great trials for that George will face by the end of his journey. The American Dream is thus illustrated to be the crisis of their journeys, reflecting the hopeful mood for the future, but also highlighting the many obstacles that lie in their way.
Likewise, Gwen Harwood’s bildungsroman poem “Barn Owl” offers a moment of provocative loss of innocence engendered by the theft of a gun used to murder the barn owl. The persona undergoes the inner journey of roaming of age experience, leading to a complete renewal of her individual perspective of self. The initial innocence of the persona, which is inevitable quashed by her ardent desire for the journey of transformation. Though first metaphorically representation as both “fiend/angel”, the persona’s symbolic “theft” of “my father’s gun” creates tension through its inferred loss of innocence. This is because the “gun”, a symbol of power, violence and corruption is itself a term of knowledge, and such encounters lead to experience and accountability. Through the child’s disobedience of her ‘old No-sayer,’ here referring to her father, she gains knowledge and an insight, primarily between the binary oppositions of life and death and consequences that arise. The final movement is like a wise moment of hind sight, of the hyperbolic “master of life and death…a wisped haired judge”, indicating the arrogance of youth and the careless bravado of ignorance; but foreshadows that such confidence will cease to exist. The loss of innocence takes the persona on the journey of self-enlightenment and realisation, gaining knowledge and the provocative spiritual of intelligence.
Likewise, a journey inevitably brings change for better or worse, and allows the traveler to gain new perspectives in which the experiences of the journey belay any goals or objectives. During the 1930’s, many Americans were victimised by the Great Depression that had fiercely gripped the nation. Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” illustrates the American Dream as bleak and useless. It is not able to accomplish anyone’s dreams, it just seems as a distant hope or a vision. George and Lennie constantly struggle to achieve their dream, satirising its attainability – the repetition of failure despite effort; “that same damn thing in their heads never…gets it” symbolises even how hard they try, the dream is just a concept rather than reality – an extended metaphor for the despondency and conclusions derived from the Great depression. The desperation and failure of the dream are resonated through Crook’s realisation “Just like heaven. Everybody wants a little piece of lan’…Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land. It’s just in their head.” exploring the idea that not all journeys may lead to their intended destinations. Through George and Lennie, the author powerfully demonstrates the fallacious and unattainable nature of the dream and therefore elevate the brutal reality, captured in the aphorism, “Life Is Not a Bed of Roses”. The American Dream’s journey is dark and cruel, it has hardened and acclimatised the responders of the migrants towards inevitable hardships, showing not all journeys have a happy ending, as a result of superficial materialism.
// no death of Lennie? or more Rabbit stuff?
In comparison, “Barn Owl” by Gwen Harwood draws the responders into a journey of a renewed perspective of self, as a result of the loss of innocence and purity as a cruel currency for wisdom gained. “Owl blind in the early sun” allows the responders to make a contrast between the owl and the child. The owl which is old and wise is compared to the young child who is youth and lacks wisdom. Knowledge and maturity cannot be gained without some form of loss or discontent. Through “Barn Owl”, the persona employs a bittersweet metaphorical pun “old blind” to convey the sadness “for what I had begun”. The shift to the pronoun ‘I’ acknowledges the change in the persona as a result of the inner journey she had undertaken. Her loss of innocence will be exchanged as gaining experience and accountability. “Early sun” is a pathetic fallacy of a new day, transforms the child’s transgression into a life lesson. Through the inner journey, the child gains a broadened understanding of a brutal life and the currency to maturity, hence rendering her self-discovery via the loss of innocence.
As such, “Of Mice and Men” and “Barn Owl” both illustrate the life-changing implications for their respective travellers, not only as a result of reaching their goals and overcome the obstacles, but also the journey itself. No matter how is the destination, the process of journey facilitates new experiences, perspectives and insights as a result of reflection and introspection by the travellers, leading to a self-enlightenment and realisation.