In “A Journey” Colm Toibin discusses the lonely heart of a mother and wife. Mary is trying to make a connection with both her husband and son, yet they seem unwilling and secluded. The family in general is dysfunctional because not only do they lack communication, but they’re also not family oriented. It is unusual for husband and wife to reside in the same home but rarely speak. Sometimes people give up on the things they anguish without even realizing the affects it has on their loved ones. Sad to say it is a common thing, the loss of affection.
When someone goes into deep depression, it not only affects their emotional state, but their mental state as well. Consequently, they can lose hopelessness and with that their selves. “It seemed to her like something David would not give up, a special dark gift he had been offered” (Toibin 5). To the mother it is almost as if her son just decided to silence himself. What I find interesting is Mary’s constant want to relive the past, as if she wants to go back in time to a place before this great depression. “She remembered, of him asking questions and wanting to know how everything worked and why” (1).
With Toibin starting the story off with the memory of David asking a question, it symbolizes Mary internal regret for not appreciating his curiosity. Now she can barely get her son to hold a conversation with her, let alone a comment. You never really pay attention to a talkative child because you often mistake it as them being a nuisance, but when they lose the will to communicate you miss that. It is like a part of her is yearning for that feeling to be loved, so in a sense she will take what she can get. The story mentions that she will sacrifice communication as long as she has her son back at home for the company alone.
Her life has become dejecting from her family’s elimination of life fondness. Seamas is in such a funk after his stroke causes him to be bed ridden that he overlooks his wife, and it makes her feel neglected or invisible. Putting yourself into a position in which you are in some form paralyzed, you may just loath in your selfpity, or even start to ignore life around you. Therefore, I do understand why he is in a state of bleakness by cause of not being able to live the life he is accustomed to. “Even when she read the newspaper to him, Seamus did not seem interested” (4).
He doesn’t really show her much importance until he expects the son’s coming home. The passage “is he back? Did you bring him (6)? explains a considerable amount of longing and fulfillment he receives knowing his son has returned. That’s his nirvana. David arrival is like a new beginning in the mom’s life and she is without doubt expressing it. When her husband inquires the where about of the son she undeniably ignores him. She is showing signs of attachment to her child even though he is not that little boy anymore and though he acts as if he despises her.
There is an unspoken ligature between mother and son, noticeable by the reaction of the mother. Her fixation on wanting to be a part of the son interest so bad, she is almost in a way, rooted in him. For example, lighting the cigarette though the father despises it, she does so just to feed her yearning to connect with her son again. That in general proves that motherly commitment is such a powerful thing. Never mind the fact that her son has been gone seven months and has returned despondent, she still loves him. Maybe even more than her husband.
The ride home caused her to day-dreaming at the thought of being able to just take him back to a moment of happiness. To Cush where he could run his feet through the sand with her. Just be lively again. She experiences an epiphany when she realizes that she has to share this fantasy with her husband. The chance of rekindling a relationship with her son is something she does not want her husband to have. It is her moment, her time. She does not want to surrender her happiness. She is not willing. Furthermore, what is a mother but a lonely heart when faced with the triumphs of a troubled child and oblivious husband?
Nothing more than a vesicle searching for belonging. “The Journey” sublimely seizes that moment in a woman’s life where things do not go as planned. The journey is that of an unexpected struggle that impairs your future. Is it fair? No it is not, but it is reality. What we choose to do with this reality is up to us. Mary chose to try to fix her relationship with her son despite how ignorant he has become. The title symbolizes not so much of her past life to now, but what she is trying to make in the present moment.