Journey by Patricia Grace

Being dispossessed, alienated, or being a refugee are very common themes in modern literature. Since the First World War there have been plenty of cases where people lose their land for one reason or another. What the democratic, brave new world promised the common man was never delivered.dsc_0118

The story has multiple points of view. It is mostly written from the third person point of view but at times adopts ‘the stream of consciousness style’ and sounds like a story told from the first person point of view. Whenever the second person pronoun appears, we find that the old man’s thoughts are presented as such.

The title of the story Journey (written without the definite article) and the author’s comment that the old man ‘does not want to call it a journey’ hint at the different meanings of the word ‘journey’. All journeys are metaphors of life, and here too, the journey of a poor man through his life, rather than a single journey he undertakes, is depicted.

Not a journey– what you would really call a journey, he had to go in and see those people about his land. Again.

This word ‘Again’ stands out and has an added power with its aloofness. This is not the first time the old man goes to see the development officer to ask him to spare his land. And we are made to think that this will be the last time.

But you got your business done?

All done. Nothing left to do.

We know that this is only partially true. He did not accomplish what he came for but he found that there is ‘nothing left to do.’

From the old man’s random thoughts and what he tell Paul at the office that the old man wants the governments permission to build houses for his dead brother family on land that he owns. But the government has earmarked it for development purposes and cannot let the old man use it for himself. He has been offered another piece of land but he is much attached to this piece of land.

They’d be given equivalent land or monitory compensation of course

But where was the sense in that, there was no equal land.

This is repeated later as conversation since this is the gist of the story. But the old man fails to realize that it is a closed chapter and the officers will not budge at all. Like the myth of Sisyphus, the old man might be making this journey knowing fully the meaninglessness of his errand. This makes the old man a tragic character and the readers see in it an example of all the dispossessed people in every continent and every country.

Even though the story line is predictable, the style of writing is magical in that we take the old man for a real life character. This is done by making the old man’s character highly realistic. He is a mixture of everything and everyone at his age. He is nostalgic of the good old days.

Their old man had put all the land down in garden, all of it, and in the weekends, they took what they didn’t use wound by horse and cart.

He has been a witness to the changes so far and knows what is in story for him and his people. He too has to make good use of what has been done to other people’s land. He thinks that his fate is no different.

Even at seventy-one, the old man is smart in different ways. From his repeated visits to the city he knows what to expect and what to do about it, even when it comes to the washing rooms and walking down the street where things, like chewing gums, could get on his shoes. He is so smart that he is fed up of the old-age people even when they are young enough to work in a post office. Even though his own people dress him like a typical old man and talk loudly to him as if he is deaf, he does not think of himself as aged. His conversation is terse and well thought out.

The journey the old man takes to the city office is described in detail. It gives us a good picture of the old man through his reminiscences and also provides us with an account how the landscape has been altered in the name of development. We find that everyone, including the old man, has come to terms with all those changes. Dissent is unheard of. So, the old man is fighting a lost and lonely battle.

On his return from the office after what obviously was a fool’s errand, the old man is not much depressed. At the office he had lost his temper and thought of punching Paul but ended up kicking his desk rather hard. On his way back from the city, he is even more friendly with the driver of his taxi and we see that both of them share the same kind of life. He even offers the driver a cabbage the next time he comes over.

But, at home he chooses not to discuss with his people what happened in the city. Instead, he requests them to burn his body and to bury him and this can be seen as a comment on his religion which is not on his side. When left alone in his bedroom,he stares at his hand probably thinking of his own fate.

Thus the story is modern in many ways. It shows very painfully the sad situation of the dispossessed and the unsupported and it does this in a style suited to its theme. The old man character is so well drawn that he stays in our mind forever. Furthermore, the story sensitizes us to the problems caused by insensitive developmental projects.

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