A metaphor of journey has been an important tool for many writers to explore characters, themes, and story of a work of fiction. Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” is a vivid example of the journey structure as a way to explore society with all of its flaws. Etgar Keret uses a much smaller scale to explore characters in short stories, instead of focusing on an entire social group of people. The characters in a short story collection use psychological and emotional journeys as the main tool to reveal their weaknesses and needs. Despite the nature of journey, it is a metaphor for self-exploration, the farther an individual is from a starting point, the more one learns about oneself.
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The first story describes two types of journey: geographical and emotional. A bus driver abides by a strict schedule to save people’s time; he moves in circles on a daily basis. Eddie has an affection to a girl whom he met (Keret). Eddie arrives at a specific location; however, the girl does not appear and serves as a reason to break his heart. Emotional journey serves as a contrast for a reader to see the character in two opposite states. At the beginning of the story, Eddie is a happy person who is eager to meet the girl; while in the end, he is completely lonely and emotionally devastated.
Journey concentrates on internal and external changes of the character. It helps to create a revelation and a change in the character’s system of values. Moreover, the journey provides a visual contrast between the introduction of the character and the end of one’s arc. The story is always about the change inside the character, which is supported by changes in scenery, weather, world’s state. In a way, journey is a universal method to emphasize the differences between stages of character development. It helps to evaluate and understand how character transforms throughout the story.
The structure of journey represents motion, and the characters are in some way forced to move forward and develop the story. Etgar Keret puts his characters on a psychological or emotional rollercoaster. The characters who are passive and only reactionary are not interesting to the readers and typically are a sign of bad writing. However, in journey-type stories, the characters are obliged to be active and in control of their path. In other words, the characters are interesting and more relatable. It is hard as a reader to be empathetic with a lazy motionless person who does not leave one’s room. At the same time, a traveler in stories provokes curiosity and support from the audience.
A story of Goodman focuses on a professional journey of journalists and investigators in a mysterious case of murder. Goodman kills a minister and his wife, and no one knows the motives behind homicide and how exactly he completes it (Keret). This is a journey for the main character from a state of not knowing anything about the situation to the point where he learns everything about Goodman. It is education in a way when characters learn something new and use this knowledge to their advantage. The characters must learn something from the consequences of their actions and decisions. With this knowledge, the characters can change and understand the world around them, its functions, and their place in it.
Apart from that, journey is a concentration of factors which provoke or force character to act. Naturally, writing has to contain drama, opposition, struggle, suffering, or resistance in order to remain interesting for the reader. Unlike habitual routine in life of everyone, journey naturally consists of fascinating events and situations. This does not mean that journey has to include an exotic environment. The bus driver does not have an interesting route; however, there are a lot of compelling situations and events as he meets different people and encounters many issues. Therefore, journey is an effective and natural method which helps to make drama and events more organic and coherent, especially, when it comes to surreal motives which Keret uses.
An ability of retrospective analysis of the character also adds value to the journey structure. Reflection at the end of the story does not typically come in straightforward text but in a different decision made by character. For instance, the character at the beginning is different from the one in the end. Hence, their views and choices differ as well. The reader is able to compare and review the character in retrospective and see how exactly has one developed. Other structures cannot provide the same ability to reflect on character’s change.
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In conclusion, journey is useful and beneficial trope for writing, when it is done correctly. Etgar Keter utilizes this method not only in terms of geographical travel but also emotional journey. Even though Keter uses smaller scaled journey to show the change of the character and one’s transformation in a negative or a positive way, it is still a fascinating experience for the reader. Furthermore, journey provides an agenda for the character to learn and gain essential experience to make the change possible.
Keret, Etgar. The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God & Other Stories. New York: Riverhead Books, 2015.