Jonathan Livinston Seagull

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade March 2001

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I would highly recommend this story to anybody, of any age. This book is one that will hold a different meaning to each and every reader, depending on the way he or she interprets it.

Taken literally, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a story about a gull named Jonathan who enjoys the pleasure of flight, much to the displeasure of his flock. When Jonathan takes a big risk one-day, he is banished to the far cliffs, where he practices, until his departure. On departing the living gulls, he is brought into the gull equivalent of Heaven, where he learns to perfect his flying, and is later sent back to teach other Outcasts. The story ends when Jonathan finally gets a successor in his pupil, Fletcher seagull.

Of course, the older, more mature reader should have no problem searching for a deeper meaning in this touching story. On one hand, it teaches one to find one's true joy, as Jonathan finds his in flying.

This is done even though the individual in question has to break out of the mould that he is forced into. That was what made Jonathan an outcast by his flock "“ his love for pure flying, and not the simple fly-to-sea-and-back of his flock. This has a parallel in our lives, as most of us go about our daily routines, content as long as we have bread, butter and a bed. However, have we really sought to please ourselves like Jonathan has? It is all about conformity. It is the Spirit that lies within all of us, if we dare to take a chance and let it free.

Perhaps at a more spiritual level, a Christian can draw further parallels to Jesus' own life. Jonathan Seagull is looked down upon by the rest of gull society, and is outcast. True enough, the Elder seagull makes the comment that "the gulls who scorn perfection for the sake of travel go nowhere, slowly. Those who put aside travel for the sake of perfection go anywhere, instantly".

Jonathan's story is one that would make a person yearn to read, to reach the limits of learning. It is important for one to know his limits to improve them, yet we perceive things to be unfair to us. Yet it teaches us that it is us who are being unfair to ourselves, as we limit our potential to that which is tangible, realistic and reachable. We fear to fail at what we do, so if we do manage to break these limits, we may yet be able to live a higher standard of life, far different from the dreary routine of endless work.

What Jonathan Seagull does in this story is to strive for perfection in his flying. He does it, regardless of his status in the flock. Perfection, like any other thing, is out there waiting for us. All we need to do is to find the perfection in ourselves, and not the one others are looking for in us.

Being a wonderful story that could unlock the seagull in us, I would raise this book as an example of what a seemingly "normal" story can free in us. It is a book that will remain in peoples' memories for a long time. Thus, I highly recommend Jonathan Livingston Seagull to anybody wishing to rediscover themselves.