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Eng125 The Journey Never Ends Draft Final PaperIntro_to_Literature

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RUNNING HEAD: THE JOURNEY NEVER ENDS 1
The Journey Never Ends
Eng125: Introduction to Literature

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THE JOURNEY NEVER ENDS 2
The Journey Never Ends: A Comparison of the Theme of the Life, Death, Rebirth Journey in
Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and Jean Rhys’ “I Used to Live Here Once”
Life is a journey from experience to experience. One is born, grows to maturity, declines
into old age, and finally, passes from life into death. While it is debatable whether there is
existence beyond what is experienced physically, the belief in life after death has been held by
many since the beginning of recorded history.
The mysteries of life and death have been speculated upon for thousands of years. Since
humans began to observe the rising of the sun, the turning of the seasons, and the life cycle of
plants, they have speculated on the nature of existence. Are humans, like plants, born, grow to
maturity, wither, and return to the earth only to be born again? Or do humans live the span of
years ending in death and only live on through their offspring? The symbols of the cycle of the
seasons, the rising and setting of the sun, and the plant and the seed have been employed by both
spiritual seekers and storytellers to give context and meaning to the journey of life and the hope
of some that it continues beyond bodily death.
In Mahayaha Buddhist belief, life is seen as a wheel called “’samsara’ and represents
everything that is perceived by the individual to be real (Thomas, 2009. p.p. 403-404).” Further,
the longer one perceives the things of this world to be “permanent”, the longer one must
continually repeat the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth into the physical world (Thomas, 2009. p.
404). In contrast, when one accepts that the things of this world are transitory, one ceases to be
attached to them (Thomas, 2009). This allows one to be “free of suffering” and to continue on
one’s journey to perfection or “Buddhahood” (Thomas, 2009). Desire and attachment bind one to
samsara or “the wheel of life” which leads to an endless progression of “lives” in the physical

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THE JOURNEY NEVER ENDS 3
world and an endless cycle of suffering until one is able to transcend desire and attachment and
achieve “sunyata” or the realization that “the world is empty” (Thomas, 2009. p. 404).
In both Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and Jean Rhys’ “I Used to Live Here Once”, the
theme of the journey of life, death, and rebirth is explored, but in very different ways. Both
works symbolically show the progression of life into death and from death into new life,
however, where Rhys illustrates the concept that surrender to the cycle leads to further
progression on the journey, Frost shows that regret leads to a repetition of the same
circumstances. While many believe death is the end and cling desperately to the things of the
material world, the authors suggest life is in constant motion. Even in death, the journey never
ends.
In Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, the author uses symbolism to communicate the journey
of life. According to George (1991), the narrator takes the persona of his middle-aged self
looking back upon the immaturity of his youthful self and also forward to his “self-aggrandizing”
older self (p. 230). The middle-aged persona is critical of both his younger and older selves for
being selfish and, in the case of the older self, willing to lie to preserve his “reputation (George,
1991).” From the first line of the poem, “two roads diverged in a yellow wood (Clugston, 2010.
Sec. 2:2)”, the reader is clued into the identity of the narrator through the symbolism of the
“yellow wood”. The color yellow is symbolic of decay and in connection with “wood” suggests a
wood in autumn when the leaves have changed (Clugston, 2010. Sec. 7:2). Autumn is symbolic
of maturity or middle-age which is the revealing symbol of narrators identity( Clugston, 2010.
Sec. 7:2).
While middle-age, as George(1991) suggests, grants a more “objective” point of view of
what one experiences in one’s youth and what one may experience in one’s old age it is difficult,

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