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Essay - a Journey

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Submitted By AlexanderH
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Essay - “A journey” by Colm Tóibín

The relationship between parents and their children is very different from one family to another. Many parents are looking gladly forward to having a child, but as soon as they actually get it, many of them becomes scared and ask them self the question, if they are good enough to raise a child. What does it takes to have the energy to take care of your children and still be able to realise yourself.
The exact same thing is happening to Mary in this short story by Colm Tóibín.

Taking care of others, communication, the past against the present and identity is some of the themes that Colm Tóibín uses in this short-story about a woman called Mary, her husband, Seamus and their child, David.
A third person limited narrator tells “A journey”, that starts in medias res and the viewpoint is on Mary.
Colm Tóibín uses a technique called Stream of consciousness, where thoughts gets depicted as they arise at Mary and the short-story and becomes one long associated stream of consciousness.
We do not get to know where the story takes place, but it might be in a small village, since Seamus is principal for a small country national school. “Their house was just beside the small country national school where Seamus was principal” (p. 2, l. 16-17).

Mary is driving on her way home with her son, David, on the backseat. He had been hospitalized because of a depression.
Mary is unsure of her self and was afraid of becoming a mom, and after David have had a depression, she wants to be confirmed, that she has done the right thing for him.
As soon as Mary and her husband, Seamus gets David, she become scared and thinks that they may be too old and too established in their usual surroundings to raise a child.
They used to be free, but now it’s almost impossible. “At first she could hardly believe it and then was frightening (…) she felt that perhaps they would be too old and set in their ways to bring up a child. They were used to being free” (p. 2, l. 10-13).
Mary wants to be confirmed, that there wasn’t anything else her and Seamus could have had done while David was hospitalized, and that it was the best thing for him. She shows that she is unsure on that there aren’t any better things her and Seamus could have done to him, by wanting this confirmation.
“But it was the best thing at the time, wasn’t it? I mean, there wasn’t anything else we could have done.” (p. 4, l. 100-101).

When it finally happens, that they get David, Mary gets to have a special relationship to him. But, because Mrs Redmond is giving him a part of his upbringing, it gets to have consequences later in his life.
He begin to spend more and more time with Mrs. Redmond, and many times when Mary comes to pick him up, he doesn’t want to go with her. “As David got bigger he began to spend more and more time with Mrs. Redmond. Often, when Mary went down to the cottage to collect him, he did not want to come home” (p. 2, l. 17-19).
Mary doesn’t see the consequences of Mrs. Redmond taking care of David for almost the half of his life. She sees it completely natural, and don’t even think about if it was from Mrs. Redmond’s dominance and her own backward role, that David had his depression.

Mary’s relationship to David in his youth is not really good, there is no communication and she does not understand that he is sick and why he is sick, “(…) their twenty-year-old son whom she was driving home from hospital had spent the last seven months there suffering from silence, as she called it; the doctors called it depression” (p.2, l. 31-33).
Mary asks David several times to come and sit on the front seat, next to her, but he refuses every time, “’Would you like to sit in the front for a while?’ she asked. There was silence for a few moments and then a muffled sound. ‘No thanks’” (p. 3, l. 62-64).
Also the communication between them on the way home is dead, “He made it clear in the way he turned that he did not wish to speak to her” (p. 3, l. 69-70).
This physical distance between them is a sign on the psychological distance between them.

Mary is uselessly trying to reach her son in many ways.
Even though Mary finds the cigarette smoke in the car almost sickening, she still asks David for a cigarette later. The only reason she is doing this, is to break the wall between them and to get some communication, “‘Do you know what I’d love?’ she asked familiarly. ‘I’d love a cigarette, haven’t had one for ages. Your father hates me smoking. Would you ever light one and pass it into me?” (p. 5, l. 132-134).

Mary is thinking about taking David on a vacation to give him his joy and power of love back.
She hopes that she may be able to help her son, to be the David he was before the depression.
But she do know that it isn’t going to be easy, “She dreamed now of going back to Cush with him, of a bright summer day and the light from the sea giving him back something long lost, (…) She thought if he could walk on the sand in his bare feet, it might lift his spirits, but he sighed as she realized that nothing would be as quick or simple. (p. 4, l. 86-90).

The message of the short-story could be, that the way you raise your child is going to affect the child for the rest of its life, and as a adult, you have to show interest in your child.
It could also be, that you have to deal with yourself either if you are going to take more care of others than realise yourself, or the other way, because it may have consequences in both ways.

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