Part 1: Patterns
1.Love – Freedom
While reading the narratives of Sam and Hailey, I noticed freedom was mentioned a couple of times, and wanted to look into the frequency of freedom-related words. On Voyager, I looked up the frequency of words that started with “free” in the narratives of both Sam and Hailey. As I was using the context tool to look at the surrounding narrative for the “free” words, I noticed some mentioned love as well, which lead me to wonder how freedom might relate to love in the novel. The frequency of words that start with “free” and words that start with “love” in both narratives display a similar pattern. This similarity is interesting because it points to an association between the concepts of freedom and of love, potentially suggesting that the two experiences go hand in hand: love helps you find freedom, and/or it is only when you are free that you can truly love.
2. Circularity/symmetry of the narratives
As I was looking at the frequency of words starting with “free” in the narrative, I noticed a nice symmetrical pattern for free. Similarly, a symmetrical pattern was found for the word “hope” across the two narratives.
Fitting with the title of “Only Revolutions”, the ending harkens back to the beginning. The symmetry of the frequency demonstrates the parallel nature of the two narratives (Hailey’s narrative as document segments 1-5 and Sam’s narrative as segments 6-10). The circularity helps to further illustrate how, without the timeline on the side, the narratives lack linearity with a set start and end time. On their own, Sam and Hailey’s narratives do not seem to have a specified past or future, with an end goal in mind, but rather a focus on the current moment. Specifically, the words free and hope are words that display this symmetrical pattern, suggesting that despite obstacles, despites ups-and-downs along the way, the ideas of freedom and hope are perpetual and never cease to appear in the human narrative.
<figcaption class="wp-caption-text">Sacrifice: Beginning and End</figcaption></figure>
Another type of circularity that I noticed is within each of the narratives: for both Hailey and Sam, their narrative begins and ends with a reference to sacrifice. However, their sentiment towards sacrifice differs between beginning and end. At the start, both characters assert they will never have to sacrifice themselves, but at the end, each character is willing to sacrifice everything for the other. In conjunction to the circular-like presence of free and hope described previously, it is interesting, then, to consider the potential roles that freedom and hope play in transforming the Sam and Hailey’s attitudes towards sacrifice: from rejecting it to embracing it.
Voyant was very helpful in highlighting patterns or trends throughout the narrative that simply reading would not have illuminated, resulting in recognizing potential themes overarching the novel. The patterns also allowed me to examine the structure of the narrative in a more detailed manner, looking at correlations, symmetry, and frequency of words/phrases within the book content. The digitization gave more insight into potential parallels between motifs (eg love and freedom) and between the two narratives. However, despite the increased breadth that the machine reading adds to the reading experience, there are still limits to machine reading, at least with the current technology. In addition to just looking at frequency of words beginning with “free”, I would’ve also liked to look at frequency of similarly connotated words. Or words under a certain group – eg Hailey’s narrative includes lots and lots of references to types of vegetation/plants while Sam’s narrative includes a lot of references to animals, but as of now it is still difficult to examine the use of all those through machine reading alone.
Part 2: Final Project Prospectus
The motif of love in this novel is often contemplated with the motif of freedom. Sam and Hailey, forever sixteen, pursue freedom as they travel around the country, as they answer to no one, sacrifice for no one. However, how their freedom connects with their love for one another seems contradictory at first. Freedom is usually defined by not being tied down to anything, by being independent. Love on the other hand involves being tied to another person. In the final project, I hope to examine the egocentric attitudes of Sam and Hailey in comparison to their perspective on love towards the other, in conjunction to the changing prospects of freedom throughout the narrative(s). Through the oxymoron of achieving freedom through love, and the rather circular presence of freedom in each narrative, Danielewski suggests freedom is not necessarily an individualistic pursuit but rather a shared desire and experience between humans that persists throughout time.