The Story Of An Outcast: Jonathan Livingston Seagull

''The gull sees farthest who flies highest.''

A Seagull Proverb - Richard Bach


There are some books, even if they are read once, they will not be erased from the minds for years. Maybe this book is very short, there is neither descriptive nor garish language, or it might contain pictures, perhaps this is even a children's book. No doubt, Richard Bach's famous Jonathan Livingston Seagull fits into all these definitions. But beyond these definitions, it has earned such a place for itself that even when the word "seagull" is mentioned, Jonathan comes to mind; while walking on the seashore, one wonders which seagull could be Jonathan, and maybe someone wants to carry this story with them with a seagull tattoo. Then, what sets this seagull apart from the others, and how come this work of Richard Bach still maintains its immortality after decades?


Photo by Russell Munson,1972. https://studfile.net/preview/5111570/


Richard Bach's Seagull, Jonathan Livingston, is actually a fable in a novella form. Addressing humanity with the story of a seagull, Bach has perhaps produced a work that many consider as a bedside book. The book tells about a seagull named Jonathan Livingston, who has been ostracized from his flock and just wants to have the experience of flying. Unlike other gulls in the flock, Jonathan does not want to fly after fishing boats or go through garbage to find food. Because his problem is not to find food; it is just to fly, to fly farther and higher. Jonathan is soon expelled from the herd for abandoning the routines of his flock and disturbing the order and finds himself on an adventure in which he will experience great physical and mental change.

It is possible to say that the book contains a lot of psychological, metaphysical, philosophical, and even sociological elements; it is formally simple, but deep in content. On the one hand, the work includes supernatural and symbolic concepts such as "Heaven", "The Chosen Seagull", "Guide Spirit", but on the other hand, touches on the subject of "self-realization" in psychology. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which makes the reader think about social hierarchy, herd psychology, individualization, and freedom, remains far beyond being a fable or a fairy tale book. This adventure, in which we see Jonathan learning, teaching, breaking his chains, contains deep emotions and inspiring philosophy.


Who is more responsible than a gull who finds and

follows a meaning, a higher purpose for life? For a thousand

years we have scrabbled after fish heads, but now we have a

reason to live — to learn, to discover, to be free! Give me one

chance, let me show you what I’ve found ...”

There are many lessons to be learned from this short story told over a seagull. Jonathan did not just want to fly in search of food, he wanted to internalize that flying experience; he wanted to live to fly. Finding food was a very small detail in his existence, which was necessary for the continuity of his life. For this reason, he could not maintain his presence in the flock and was declared an outcast. It is possible to see a similar picture when one looks at the herd of people, that is, society. Because the society we live in advises people to live in order to find food, not to find food to live. The consequences of rebellion, rejection, being original, being able to live freely can be very severe; for this reason, being able to hear the 'human' in the story of a seagull, will allow the book to be viewed from a different perspective.



Photo by Russell Munson,1972. https://www.nemaloknig.net/read-367478/?page=4



Why is it the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free,

and that he can prove it for himself if he’d just spend a little time practicing?

Why should that be so hard?”



Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingstone Seagull virtually encourages people to step out of their "comfort zone", question life, transcend their limits, and discover their own strengths. Jonathan is perhaps advising that one should not stay away from life while in life. This masterpiece, which is more than a fairy tale book, makes a social criticism through a seagull. The result of being ostracized and misunderstood, says Jonathan, is to be called either God or the Devil by the others. A seagull cannot fly at night like an owl, cannot fly as fast as an eagle or a hawk, and cannot do acrobatic stunts in the sky like them. All the seagulls believed it, except for one, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull.



References:

  • Bach, Richard. Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A Story by Richard Bach (1972–10-05). HarperCollins Distribution Services, 2021.



  • “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” Wikipedia, 1 Aug. 2021,

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Livingston_Seagull#Part_four.

  • Roebuck-Johnson, Aimee. “Trust Yourself: A Review of ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ by Richard Bach.” All Things If, 2 Feb. 2012, www.allthingsif.org/archives/686.




Author Photo

Umut Açıkgöz

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