The Quest: It’s More Than Just a Trip

The Foster motif that “Every Trip is a Quest (except when it’s not)” has been the most prominent throughout all of the eras of American literature. These quests all contribute to the plot by adding more dimensions to the story by developing characters through their own self-discovery. In “Young Goodman Brown,” a story from the romantic era, Brown’s trip through the forest is a quest in which he struggles with the forces of good and evil and questions everything he has trusted and known. What he learns along the way greatly impacts the character that he turns out to be for the rest of his life. In My Antonia, a novel from the realism era of literature, Jim’s train ride from Virginia to Nebraska is a quest. It is the journey which leaves his old life behind and leads him toward a fresh start. His experiences living on the farm with his grandparents and surviving harsh conditions will shape who he is as a person and will help him grow. While on this train ride, he wonders what his new life will be like. He is also introduced to Ántonia’s Bohemian family who happen to be on the same ride. Just like Jim, they are leaving their old life behind and starting over. This trip begins the journey of these two people whose lives will eventually intertwine and impact each other significantly. An example of a work of modernism that strongly emphasizes this motif is Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The entire vacation to Spain is a quest itself. Each character learns a great deal about themselves, especially Jake, when all of the drama ensues among the group of friends. He learns about his relationship with Brett and how it makes him feel that they cannot be together. He also learns about jealousy through both himself and the other men. Foster’s motif that every trip is a quest is important in American literature no matter what time period it is from because it contributes to the overall depth of the story.

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