Where is the setting of the story Jonathan Livingston Seagull?i'm so confused

Asked on by akireyoj

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ladyvols1's profile pic

ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

"Jonathan Livingston Seagull" is a wonderful little story about a seagull that has been kicked out of his community for being different.  Jonathan wants to be more, see more and live live differently than the mass of gulls on his beach. He is an individual who refuses to just follow the mass of mindless gulls in his community.  He lives at the Seashore, but he is not allowed to be with the other gulls because he can't conform.  He takes off and learns to fly away from the group and he goes higher and farther than any other gull ever has.  Jonathan explores his world and enjoys his freedom.  He returns to his flock and desires to share what he has learned with the other gulls.  The allegory was made into a movie and the great soundtrack by Neil Diamond. 

"Each of us is in truth an idea of the Great Gull, an unlimited idea of freedom."

andrewnightingale's profile pic

andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Setting refers to a time and geographic location within a story. It is the main backdrop against which the action develops and, as such, it can also affect the atmosphere and mood of the unfolding tale.

The story does not have only one particular setting since Jonathan does not find himself at one specific place all the time. He constantly shifts from one area to another. Obviously, his fixed abode is close to the beach, not far from the shore, whilst his practice area is an area in the sky, far away from everyone, where he is able to practice his flying. At times, when he is with the flock, he is at another place such as on the beach or around the pier and fishing boats, as the text illustrates:

...he really tried, screeching and fighting with the flock around the piers and fishing boats, diving on scraps of fish and bread. But he couldn't make it work.

Jonathan is later banished from gull society and has to live a solitary life in the Far Cliffs. This change in setting, however, does not discourage him and makes him even more determined to achieve his goal. Since Jonathan is so determined to improve his skill, the majority of his time is spent in the air—sometimes two or more thousand feet up. This area, which is not specifically named since it is so vast, therefore constitutes most of the setting.

The open sky and ocean are ideal metaphors for Jonathan's continuous search for enlightenment. He wants to be free of all the strictures imposed upon him by the flock. He needs the freedom to experiment and test himself to the limit so that he may achieve a greater awareness not only of himself but of all existence. His repeated attempts at reaching awesome speeds and breaking all flying records becomes an obsession. His flying becomes the vehicle through which he continuously attempts to achieve deeper consciousness. Jonathan needs an unlimited open space in order to exercise his need and achieve his desire.

Through his repeated attempts, Jonathan eventually leaves earth and lives in heaven where he finds brothers who had had the same experiences as his and who teach him more about mastering the art of flying and achieving perfection.

As far as the time setting is concerned, the period is timeless. This ties in with the theme of freedom. There will forever be a search for an ultimate truth or perfection.

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