Departure, Initiation, and Return Essay

Words: 4252
Pages: 18

English 1302

October 11, 2012

Departure, Initiation, and Return in Jorge Luis Borges' “The Garden of Forking Paths”

At first glance, Jorge Luis Borges' short story, “The Garden of Forking Paths,” tells the tale of a Chinese agent for the Germans against the English during the first World War. In this short story, Yu Tsun (the spy) learns that a fellow agent has been eliminated. This means that he will undoubtedly be the next to be arrested and killed. This will probably happen before the end of the day. Yu Tsun has a mission that must be performed: send the name of the city containing the English air base to Berlin without the message being intercepted before he is captured. Yu Tsun, although a flawed hero, is the story's
…show more content…
This is not a perfect parallel, for the battle with the gatekeeper (who in this case is also the hero's main adversary) is only won by the hero's punctuality, not his skill and cunning, and the danger does not fade but is only delayed until the next train. As Yu Tsun gets to his seat, he notices his fellow travelers. They include “a few farmers, a woman dressed in mourning, a young boy who was reading with fervor the Annals of Tacitus, a wounded and happy soldier” (264). There is nothing interesting at face value. But, in this story, nothing should be taken at face value. Rene de Costa, a professor of romance languages at the University of Chicago and the author of Humor in Borges (Wayne), says, “This last qualifier is momentarily in tension with the first, but only until we realize why the wounded soldier is "happy." He is happy to be still alive. Indeed, for this soldier, the war is happily over. The traveling widow probably collects a pension, and the student at leisure is handily avoiding military service by dutifully studying the cyclical dynastic wars in imperial Rome. The overall thrust of this story is not comic but ironic” (Costa). He gets off the train at the Ashgrove station. A boy at the station asks if he is “going to Dr. Stephen Albert's house,” and then he tells him he “won't get lost if [he] take[s] this road to the left and at every crossroads turn again to [his]