Thursday, March 4, 2010

Response to Kathryn

Not only is it the story of a mariner, but it's about the sadness of returning home and the realization that it's not the place that has changed, but you. At the very beginning, a priest, who is not really supposed to judge anyone, looks at him from across the hill and is suspicious. I think this is one of the most painful parts for the sailor: the fact that he could return home and (almost) nothing has changed, while he apparently has changed so much that not even an old friend can recognize him. According to the priest, "the thought of death sits easy on the man/ Who has been born and dies among the mountains." Why? Because, as the priest later explains, his memory will be passed down in the memories of others: anyone from the village who died continues to live on. That's why they don't even have gravestones. But this only makes the fate of Leonard all the more tragic: he leaves the place he could have been loved, the place he could have lived eternally in the minds of others, to go back to the sea and to die there, unknown, all because he cannot stand to be in the place where he and his brother lived such happy years. Now that he has returned home, his fate at sea is all the worse: not only is his family all gone, but no one will remember him and he'll die alone.

1 comment:

  1. I concur with the majority of your post, although I'm not sure I agree that Leonard is the only one who has changed, and not the vale. I think that both the brothers and the vale are connected in a powerful, almost supernatural way. As a result, when James dies the landscape itself becomes altered - the stream is extinguished by a bolt of lightning. So upon Leonard's return, although it is true that he is different, so is the landscape. This physical manifestation of the emotional break between Leonard and his home is underscored by the complete lack of familiarity between Leonard and the Priest.

    In other words, when Leonard returns he is so different that the Priest does not recognize him, but Leonard also cannot recognize all of the landscape around him. Both have changed - perhaps as a result of each other?