The Journey by Barrie Hough
In The Journey by Barrie Hough we have the theme of friendship, fear, connection, helplessness, control, equality and perseverance. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator it becomes clear to the reader after reading the story that Hough may be exploring theme of friendship. Thembi and Johan have a very special connection with one another despite the fact that Johan can at times be difficult to understand because of his stutter. Despite this Thembi remains by Johan’s side as a friend would do and challenges Johan to better himself. This may be important as by challenging himself Johan manages to reach his goal of speaking without stuttering. Though at first he is annoyed with Thembi later on in the story it becomes clear that all Thembi’s challenges have been worth it. Johan also feels connected to Thembi because like him she is an outsider and may not necessarily be accepted by the other students in the school. Though Thembi does appear to be able to stand up for herself and has the skills to verbally defend herself. She is after all a member of the school debating society.
By not going into too much detail about the other students in the school Hough also manages to keep the reader focused on the fledgling relationship between Thembi and Johan and the pressure that Johan feels he is under in order to please Thembi. At one stage in the story Thembi gets angry with Thembi and considers her demands to be unreasonable. When the reality is Thembi is only trying to help Johan who unfortunately feels helpless when it comes to his speech. However it is noticeable that Johan does not give up. Instead he perseveres and shows resilience. Beating the challenge that has been put before him by Thembi. This too could be significant as Hough may be suggesting that others who may feel stifled by life can succeed if they only try that little bit harder and persevere. Like Johan they too can overcome the obstacles that life puts in front of them regardless of how difficult they might feel the task at hand is. In reality everybody should have hope in their life for it is hope for something better that helps at times to pull a person into a new and brighter day.
What is also interesting about Johan’s fears is the fact that he knows that should he not talk to Thembi without stuttering. He will not have the opportunity to kiss her. It being clear to the reader that Johan likes Thembi as one would like a girlfriend. In many ways the story could be seen as a story of a young teenage boy overcoming adversity and getting the girl he loves. Something which is not necessarily a reality for most people. Thembi has everything that Johan needs and he knows this. He just needs to be patient and to be able to control his speech. Without losing his temper because he finds the task at hand so difficult. Though Johan may not know it. Thembi only has Johan’s best interests at heart. She wants him to succeed as she too knows what it is like to be on the outside of society. By challenging Johan Thembi is also making sure that Johan advances in life and that one obstacle at least has been cleared. Having a speech impediment can leave a person feeling insecure within themselves because of society’s cruelties. Whether society means to be cruel is not important. What is important is that someone like Johan can lose all confidence if they are ridiculed by their peers.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader senses how happy both Thembi and Johan are. Thembi’s faith in Johan has been rewarded and Johan has manged to control his speech. Hough possibly suggesting that things in the future will be good for both Thembi and Johan. Johan will get to kiss Thembi for the first time. Something which will further connect both Thembi and Johan. If anything Johan, thanks to Thembi, can hold his head high and be full of confidence. No longer will he be ostracized by his peers and if he is he has the confidence to now stand up for himself should the need arise. By challenging Johan. Thembi has managed to give him back control over his life. It is as though Johan is starting life all over again but this time he is everybody’s equal. He does not have to isolate himself in fear of being ridiculed by his peers. Just as there is a new South Africa. There is a new Johan. Johan gets the girl, gets control back of his life and gets to see the dawning of a new and equal South Africa.