Who is Sullivan from Jonathan Livingston Seagull?  

Sullivan is Jonathan Livingston Seagull's instructor when he reaches the next plane of existence, a kind of seagull heaven. He teaches Jonathan a number of techniques that will allow him to hone his already impressive flying skills.

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In Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the title character, Jonathan, is a seagull who finds himself bored and frustrated with the short-sighted, materialistic attitudes of the rest of his seagull flock. The other seagulls are only interested in fighting over food, but Jonathan wants to fly.

After he's kicked out of the flock, Jonathan trains for a while by himself. Eventually he learns to fly so high that he reaches another plane of existence—a sort of seagull heaven.

In this place, he meets Sullivan. Sullivan serves as a mentor to Jonathan, teaching him new flying techniques. Jonathan also meets the Elder Gull of this flock, a seagull named Chiang, who teaches Jonathan even greater secrets of flying. Sullivan calls Jonathan the best pupil he has ever had, and eventually Jonathan surpasses Sullivan's teachings and learns how to teleport.

When Jonathan returns to earth, he meets a seagull named Fletcher Lynd Seagull, who has been cast out by the flock for the same reasons Jonathan was. Jonathan starts to teach Fletcher how to fly better as well. In doing so, Jonathan begins to implement not only the lessons he learned from Sullivan on how to fly but also what he learned about being a good teacher.

Sullivan thus serves as a transitional character or a helper for Jonathan, the main character. Through Sullivan's influence, Jonathan grows from being a student to a teacher, from someone who flies "just because" to someone who understands the deeper aspects and techniques of flying. In this way, Sullivan is similar to characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars or Haymitch in The Hunger Games: he's someone the main character learns from so that, eventually, the main character can surpass their teachings.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 14, 2021
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Sullivan is the teacher Jonathan Livingston Seagull meets when he enters a higher plane of existence in the second part of the novel. Sullivan is a wise mentor who pushes Jonathan not to limit himself but to fly higher and higher. He also explains to Jonathan that he arrived in this new, heavenly plane because of his strivings in his former world. Unlike most other seagulls—for whom flight is a means to the end of finding food—Jonathan loved flight for the gift it was, regardless of whether or not it led to a meal. He asked the kind of probing questions that made him an outcast in his society. These traits made him the rare, one-in-a-million bird that could ascend to a higher plane of existence. As Sullivan tells Jonathan,

We choose our next world through what we learn in this one.

Sullivan, however, teaches Jonathan an even more important lesson. He tells Jonathan that to truly ascend to the highest levels, he has to let go of the bitterness and lack of forgiveness he harbors against those who misunderstood him in his former life. He needs to learn to love those who hated him. In fact, the Christlike Jonathan ends up returning to his former life to teach those he left behind.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 14, 2021
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Jonathan's one of that rare breed of seagulls who've managed to leave the earth behind them and ascend to a higher plane of existence. He is truly a one in a million bird. There are very few seagulls in this seagull equivalent of heaven, a further indication that Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a very special seagull indeed.

But although Jonathan may have left the world behind and may have demonstrated considerable flying skills, he still has much more to learn. That's where Sullivan comes in. He's an instructor who helps Jonathan and the other members of the elite group of seagulls to hone their flying skills. To that end, he teaches them various techniques that will take them on to the next level of proficiency.

It transpires that Jonathan is an absolute joy for Sullivan to teach. He proclaims him to be the most fearless seagull he has mentored in ten thousand years, further proof, if proof were needed, that Jonathan's a most unique bird. As well as having remarkable flying skills, he's also a good learner, which subsequently makes him an invaluable instructor in his own right when he returns to earth to teach other seagulls what he's learned.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 14, 2021
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In Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Sullivan is Jonathan's instructor in seagull heaven. At the end of Part One, two special seagulls take Jonathan into the next seagull world, where he will continue to hone his flying skills under the tutelage of an instructor.

At the beginning of Part Two, Jonathan finds that his seagull body has miraculously transformed into a lighter, brighter version of his old one. Although he is ecstatic at this new discovery, he is disappointed to realize that there are limits to flight speed even in seagull heaven. He is also a little discouraged when he observes that seagulls still get tired in their new home. However, things start to look up for him when he notices that he is in the company of seagulls who are focused on reaching perfection in flight.

One day, Jonathan asks his instructor why there are not more seagulls in seagull heaven. Sullivan answers that Jonathan is a 'one-in-a-million bird,' and that most seagulls often fail to grasp that there is more to life than 'eating, or fighting, or power in the Flock...' Sullivan tries to explain that most seagulls don't have the right mindset to be admitted to seagull heaven; they have to go through many lifetimes before they realize the true purpose of a seagull's life. Jonathan, on the other hand, has understood that perfection in flight is the ultimate goal.

Eventually, when Jonathan manages to master flying to the past and to the future, he finds his body changing once again to accommodate his new ability to recognize the meaning of kindness and love. To his great awe, his new body glows so brilliantly that it is a blinding vision of luminosity. This new perfection so inspires Jonathan that he bids farewell to Sullivan and proceeds to make his way back to seagull earth. His purpose is to seek out similar Outcasts and to teach these Outcasts that they too, can transcend time and space to arrive at perfection in flight and love.

 

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