Richard Bach’s existential novella, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a rhapsody of joy and triumph; the triumph of the seagull metaphor for all humans against the prejudice of his species and socially imposed traditions. Written in the parable form in a very simple and clear language, it tells story of a seagull named Jonathan Livingston who crosses all barriers of society to achieve his dream of flying against the Council Flock of Seagulls which is designed to marginalize him. Jonathan Livingston Seagull a story is almost a fictional account of a seagull, which travelled against all odds of the flock to freedom.
Though, the fiction is considered to be the life history a seagull at one level, it is at once a metaphor or an allegory stating its deeper meanings. If we substitute or equate “Jonathan” to any man and the “Flock” as the patriarchal or conventional society and if we consider or read the story now it tells the tale of a man who fights against all odds of the society to find his self identity – the identity of an extraordinary seagull who conquered great heights in his goal of become the master of flying techniques amidst all limitations.
“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” is essentially a search for selfhood and by extension a symbolic search by any human to find and dream the contours of flying (goal) which is his dream. For this the individual self has to go through a continual process of reaching beyond itself, of expanding itself through varied experience, through multiple identities and relationships. The forms of life and the world seem paradoxical, mysterious and horrifying. To respond the world through pleasure, desire, despair, protest, hate, acceptance and to absorb the contradictions both within the self and the world outside, is to achieve the wholeness of life and being. Richard Bach tries to elevate Jonathan Livingston Seagull into a world much beyond the ordinary seagull life. For this emancipation, “the old law” has to be set aside.
Jonathan the protagonist being a seagull is expected to behave like a seagull and to conform to the social convention and traditions practiced in the seagull flock. The daily routine to get food is the main aim or motive of the gull’s life.
“See here, Jonathan” said his father, not unkindly. “Winter isn’t far away. Boats will be few, and the surface fish will be swimming deep. If you must study, then study food, and how to get it. This flying business is all very well, but you can’t eat a glide, you know. Don’t you forget that the reason you fly is to eat.”(4-5)
Right from the start of the story however, as a hard working and perseverant gull, Jonathan is after the art of lying unlike others just for the passion of flight and not food. He is described as left “bone and feathers” and no “ordinary bird.” He had a far sighted vision, one that made him strange and different from the society of the gulls. He did not find meaning in being an ordinary gull and tried to exploit his limits...