Maiden Voyage Commentary Essay
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This extract from Maiden Voyage, by Denton Welch, focuses on the narrator who escapes from the comfort of his home into the realm of the unknown. He uses symbolism, imagery, diction, irony as well as contrast to show the harsh reality of the outside world in order to put forth his purpose of satirizing the over protected parents whose child will one day leave their comfort zones into the harsh outside world and how they will eventually be the ones who suffer because of parents who take care of their every need.
Welch depicts the narrator in a negative manner, one who is over protected but dislikes living in this manner as seen from the fact that “he hated to be dependent on other people” and “began to feel imprisoned”. This shows the unwillingness of the narrator to stay in his comfort zone and his longing to stray into the outside world of mystery. As such, it is clearly depicted that no matter how hard the parents might try to keep their child away from the harsh nature of the real world, there will be a time where the child will break free from his cocoon and fly away into the realm of the unknown, helpless and without experience.
The narrator is also depicted as one who is inquisitive as he was “longing to explore” the outside world. He saw a black spot and “wondered if it was a cat” “or perhaps it was a dark boulder”, once again showing the narrator’s inquisitive mind in wanting to find out more. However, the black spot turned out to be a human head, and this shows the contrast between what the narrator expected the world to be like and what the harsh world is actually like, and in turn emphasizing on the helplessness of the narrator as he is alone in the outside world without any experience whatsoever.
There is also foreshadowing when Mr Butler said “foreigners are not very popular here”, foreshadowing the appearance of the head. This gives emphasis on the human head which will be discussed later on. Moreover, this quote also refers to the narrator in not merely a literal way. The narrator is also a foreigner in the sense that he has never been to the outside world, never experienced reality, and this is ironical that the people who told the narrator that foreigners are not really accepted are the ones who kept the narrator away from the outside world, and to keep him in the realm of comfort, making him a “foreigner” to the world outside. As such, this gives emphasis on the author’s purpose of mocking the over protective parents who in turn are the very ones who cause harm onto the child.
More irony is seen as the narrator states early on in the poem that his care takers “would never want to do what I wanted to do” and this is ironic as compared to the later part of the prose where the narrator states himself that he “did not know what to do” and this irony as well as contrast clearly depicts the idea of helplessness of the narrator caused by the over protective care takers and this over protection builds up a sense of wanting to break free in the narrator. As such, the author satirizes the over protective parents and shows that they are the very ones who will cause the down fall of the one whom they try so hard to protect.
The author also uses a lot of symbolism all throughout this extract to bring forth his purpose of mocking the over protection of the child. The human head, a very important motif, is used to symbolize self-knowledge. Thus, the cut off head symbolizes the narrator’s self-knowledge of the world being eroded away as he views the harsh reality of this cruel world. As such, the author creates a sense that everything that was taught to him was not true, that everything he knows is not the real thing. And as such, it creates a sense of false hope and false protection, when in fact, he is the most susceptible to the harsh reality of the world outside his comfort zone. Therefore, this brings forth the idea of mocking the over protective parents and their false teachings, which will in turn, cause great harm to the very child they were trying to protect all their life.
The flies are described as “a haze” and were “buzzing like dynamos”. This shows the vast number of flies as well as the amounts all densely accumulated around this human head. This symbolizes the parents, who act as a shield which surrounds the outside world, as symbolized by the human head, and as such, it is only when he goes close to the object that he sees the harsh reality of the outside world, one which he is not ready to accept. As such, it can be said that the ones who causes the downfall of the over protected child, are the parents themselves.
The “turrets and bastions” that were “crumbling into the sea” shows the gradual degrading of these fortifications and how they slowly but surely lose their purpose of protection as time passes. This is used to symbolize the narrator’s parents, that there will be a time where this sphere of comfort and protectiveness will degrade and dissolve away like “ruined cottages” and the narrator will have to shift away from this comfort zone into the realm of the unknown. When this time comes, the narrator will have to suffer because of a lack of experience, and a naï¿½ve mindset that everything is as simple as it seems. As such, the author clearly satirizes the over protective parents as to how they are causing the death of their own child in the long run.
The narrator’s sense of helplessness is also very clearly depicted in the prose through the use of imagery. The author uses “the first cur”, a dog that resorts to barking in fights, and is in fact a cowardly dog, to show the narrator’s helplessness in the outside world, even to the mildest of things, he “turned and ran back”. This gives emphasis on the consequences of over protecting the child, leaving him stranded and alone to fend for him in the outside world, and when this time comes, he will sure to suffer, thus mocking the parents.
The author uses “pathless sands” to once again, draw attention to the narrator’s helplessness in the outside world. As he is seen to be lost in the harsh world, where there are no paths, which are used to refer to the guidance of his care takers, and no signs to show him the way to go. Therefore, this gives readers the idea that the author is mocking the care takers who are severely over protective of the child and the fact that this will in turn lead to more cons than pros for the child.
The helplessness of the narrator is further emphasized when the author depicts the “slap of them when they hit the wall”, them referring to the insects. Their helplessness is used to compare with that of the narrator’s as they could never escape from the clutches of the harsh reality, and the narrator was in the same plight as them. The author uses these consequences of over protection to mock the parents of the child whom have been kept in the comfort zone without having to face any problems on his own, thus is very dependent and has no experience at all.
Welch also uses diction to depict the real world outside the comfort realm set by the over protective parents on their child. He uses words like “harsh spears of grass” and “dry and sharp as knives” to show the harsh reality of the world. This is used in contrast with the “European villa and a line of poplars”, which is the over protection showered upon the narrator by his parents. And as such, the author can be seen to be mocking the naivety of the parents who think that they are able to protect their child for their whole life and think that what they are doing is for the best of the child, when in fact it is the exact opposite as seen by the harsh reality of the real world viewed by the innocent and helpless narrator.
The prose ends off with a mocking tone that once the child leaves the comfort zone, there is no way he can come back, once he sees the harshness of the real world, he can no longer be protected by his parents. This is seen where the narrator “ran towards a bastion, wondering if I could climb up to it in anyway”, showing the wanting of the child to go back into the safe and sheltered comfort zone, but the author ends us off with a harsh but true sentence: “I knew that I could not”.