Back to: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Table of Contents
Progress and Tradition
The story highlights the constant struggle between progress and tradition, present and past. Jonathan wants to explore the possibilities of the present and make a brighter future however, its clan wants to conserve the age-old tradition and discourage a break from the natural past.
Jonathan wants to take risks and break old boundaries while the flock wants to celebrate the established boundaries and respect their ancestral ways.
It also represents a tendency to settle for the known rather than trying the unknown which can be dangerous and unpredictable. However, by the end of the tale, the readers find that future generations turn Jonathan into a part of the tradition and myth and lose the spirit of progress and innovation that Jonathan always desired.
Religiosity and Blind Faith
The flock represents a larger community bound with shared faith and beliefs. Such an organization decries individualism and celebrates fraternity, tradition, and uniformity of practices.
Jonathan fights against such uniformity and wants to showcase his unique talents. However, after achieving perfection, Jonathan is reduced to another myth in the long narrative of religious narrative.
Jonathan is built as a divine figure with messianic abilities. His story is converted into the mythology of supernatural feats and he is worshipped for his greatness.
This represents the innate disposition of people to look for divine help and inspiration. However, this need can and is often exploited for greed and draped as blind faith lacking critical thinking.
Spirit of Individual freedom
The story uses the central idea of the individual. It highlights how every individual has their own beliefs, ambition, and desire which may be in opposition to the whole group. Jonathan is a free-spirited gull who wants to explore the limits of flight and finds glory in it.
The rest of the flock find Jonathan unpalatable and want him to accept their collective world view. Jonathan finds himself excommunicated and alone but free to do what he always wanted.
In a different realm, he finds a group that encourages his individual drive and he learns the beauty of having a strong support system. Jonathan returns to Earth to impart the same wisdom to young gulls however overtime his ideas are forgotten.
Instead, he finds a legion of blind followers doing exactly what he fought against in the first place.
The story celebrates the power of self-belief and hard work. Jonathan wants to risk everything in order to achieve perfection. He loses his family, friends, and community in order to follow his dreams of being a great flier.
He is tested with taunts, insults, loneliness, and poverty. However, these trials only help him become more focused on his goals and self-determined to find his own way to glory.
The same ambition and resolve are shown by Fletcher, Jonathan’s favorite disciple and Anthony (his last student). The story also describes heaven as a union of such determination and physical ability if one has unbreakable resolve.