“In our time together, you claimed a special place in my heart, one I’ll carry with me forever and that no one could ever replace.”-Nicholas Sparks (Dear John).
The heart is a very abstruse thing. Scientifically, know the differences between a human’s heart and a dog’s heart. They know how many hearts a worm has and how a bacterium has none. Doctors know how to perform surgery on the heart without killing a person while a scientist uses a dead person heart to figure out how to prevent premature death. But other than that, the heart is a mystery. Why does the heart hurt when we lose someone we love? Why does it grow when we help someone?
Is it actually a cold, dark vortex that has no emotions, or is it the heart Little Jimmy gave to Sally asking her to be his Valentine? I personally think that the best personification of a broken heart was done by George Lucas in Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith. The way that Padmè dies of a broken heart in that movie really gives the viewers a real appreciation for her relationship with Anakin. In “Joyas Voladoras”, Brian Doyle uses many forms of rhetorical strategies, two being symbols and literal and figurative language, that delve into matters of heart and allow readers to experience the emotions he means to stir.
The heart is a symbol that represents life, love, emotions, and many other structures that make humans and animals alike come alive. Doyle uses the heart, being the most vital organ in the body, to represent love for huge animals such as the blue whale, and the struggles of life such as with humans.
“You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.”
The heart can be small and fast, like a hummingbird in motion, or it can be slow like the tread of the tortoise, or even huge enough to be a room that a child could walk through, just like that of the blue whale.
The heart is the center of life. It’s what allows us to breathe, feel, hurt, and love. It’s the irrational part of humans that makes us love someone that can hurt us, or hurt someone that loves us. It also the same organ that allows huge beasts to find one mate and spend the rest of their lives with them. “No living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside.” It is hard to find anything these days that aren’t directed towards the heart. Foods that are good for your heart, books that warm the heart, movies that stir the heart, the list is endless. Doyle uses this particularly in his last paragraph.
“You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath….”
He continues on using examples from everyday life that stir the heart and allow us to feel, to be human.
The essay starts out with facts about the hummingbird and all that it’s about. Doyle gives a list of all the hummingbirds that are now extinct, “a brilliant music stilled.” He tells us that if a hummingbird were to stop eating for too long, if they were to stop flying for any amount of time, if it were too cold outside, if it has a heart attack, an aneurysm, or a rupture, the hummingbird can die. I as a reader paused there and considered that for a second. One never does pause to think about how such a majestic bird, in ways far different than that of a hawk or eagle, could die because of such terrible things. I only thought of humans dying in such terrible ways.
And that is another thing. Doyle allowed me to understand that although humans are the dominant species, we know next to nothing about many other species in this vast world. It’s there that you finally start to see a double meaning to his words. Again he gives us facts, only this time about the blue whale. He starts his essay with a tiny creature, miniscule in size to that of the blue whale, and just transfers over to the biggest mammal with nothing to form a bridge, but a tortoise.
The blue whale has a heart that would allow a small child to walk through the valves to different chambers. It is virtually unknown to the humankind except for its music and that it travels in pairs. Many may only see the featured meaning, that blue whales sing and travel in pairs, but I don’t think that that is what Doyle meant. To me, it reflected on the follies of humans. We can spend our whole lives with one person, but secretly see others. We promise ourselves to only one man or woman. We promise ourselves that we would never do anything to hurt the ones we love. We make promises our subconscious has no intentions on keeping. The national divorce rate raises itself each year.
Families are torn apart because of confusion, the couple isn’t ready to settle down, cheating, and of course because they don’t really love each other. It’s amazing how a beast so large with a heart bigger than a car, can love only one other beast when a human can “love” far more than one person at a time or not at all. “We are utterly open with no one in the end.” I doubt that Doyle meant that we all die alone, but he could have. We are alone only because humans tend to push people away. We have a family and we have our friends. But we push them away to avoid getting hurt. We have everyone we need there with us, but we all feel utterly alone.
Our hearts go through so much damage in our lives.
“All hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall.”
Hearts can be damaged whenever there is an accident. They can be bruised when a person is hit in the chest too hard, torn by a strain, or scarred because of a surgery. But our emotions cause more damage to the heart than anything a doctor can fix. We break our hearts every time a loved one hurts us, we scar our hearts with memories of sadder times, we repair our hearts, to some extent, when we find a new love, buy a puppy or kitten, or make a new friend. We force our heart together and try to move on, but it’s the emotions that our memories bring about that we crumble and fall under pressure too.
“A cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice in the early morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.”
Or even things that Doyle doesn’t write about; the loss of a child or friend, the day your first child was born, your last conversation with your grandmother. They bring about emotions that we have blocked from ourselves and when the levee breaks and the emotions flood through, we are forced to relive every memory, good or bad.