Mary Oliver is one of the celebrated poets in the United States and has won the Pulitzer Price- one of the most prestigious awards in literature. Oliver made first publication of her poetries in 1963 in a collection titled No Voyage and Other Poems. In the poem The Journey, Oliver talks about a person who makes a decision to starts his or her journey to the desired destination despite the opposition from people around him or her. The Journey is a poem that describes a person determined to achieve personal desires regardless of the difficulties that come with the process.
Mary Oliver in this poem depicts the journey of a person out to achieve his or her maximum potential even if it means going alone. The title of the poem is the true reflection of the whole plot as it is based on the brevity of an individual to go against the tides and pursue personal interest. The poem starts with the author giving an advice to the reader that he or she can only set out to explore the full potential only if “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began.” In other words, the journey to posterity begins after a person realizes his or her purpose in this world. The purpose then becomes the point of focus during the whole journey since at one point he or she will feel lonely after setting apart from the crowd. At this point, a there is no any other voice from the crowd other than the “new voice which you slowly recognized as your own.”
However, before a person delivers himself or herself from the crowd with “bad advice,” he or she must endure the pain that comes with the decision. Human beings are generally resistant to change and even they set out to the journey they experience some difficulties that come from the people around and even on a personal level. As the point to move outcomes closer the resisting voices also grow louder bringing excuses like “Mend my life!” The ability to overcome the opposing voices depends on the strength of the personal conviction to achieve the posterity. And as the title of the poem indicates the process is a journey that is guided by the determination “to save the only life you could save.” Saving a life in this context is used metaphorically to refer to the achieving the most important thing in a person’s life. Life is the most important thing and it saving any number is considered a great achievement, especially in times of disaster.
The next step after overcoming the “bad advice” is learning how to swim against the tides in a lonely environment. The lonely environment in this context does not necessarily mean that a person is living in seclusion but rather he or she is free from the influence of the people around. In some cases, the person even lacks where to get advice since he or she “left their voices behind” and is only in a situation where only “own” voice is audible. The author uses the voice in this stanza to mean the advice and not the real sounds. In essence, Oliver says that the moment a person is set apart from the crowd it is their wisdom that guides them throughout their journey to greatness. They must come to the reality that it is only their knowledge and ability to make right decisions is what determines whether they will reach the destination. The statement “there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own” is used to mean that at some point a person who wishes to succeed must learn to believe in the decisions since it becomes the only reliable solutions.
The poem not only describes the journey to personal freedom but also offer valuable advice during the process. Oliver advises everyone that wishes to start their walk to freedom or posterity to start any time and despite being late they are still in a position to achieve their desires. However, the process does not come easy as one has to endure the challenges along the way as “the road full of fallen branches and stones.” The fallen branches refer to people who gave up on their way to greatness and can discourage you. Branches are to remain attached to the tree until such point when it is cut. But when they fall off prematurely then it means they failed to achieve their mission. On the other hand, the stones are impediments to a person’s progress like sickness and financial difficulties among other factors. Stone is used symbolically to reflect the difficulties in life just like they make it difficult to travel on the roads.
In conclusion, Mary Oliver in this poem has successfully described the journey to freedom and the challenges that a person is likely to face. The first challenge is determining your purpose that acts as the motivation throughout the whole process. Additionally, she also brings out the impact of people around you in derailing your success as they always want you to remain in the comfort zone. The Journey is a timeless masterpiece that will remain relevant so long as human lives.