When does life tuly begin? Does it begin at birth? The pursuit of our aspirations and dreams? A major event that changes who we are? Or does it begin at the point in our lives when we face the reality of death, and accept it? These are just a few of the questions that Daytripper – a captivating, enigmatic, yet guardedly optimistic graphic novel – invites its’ audience to ponder. This brilliantly crafted narrative explores themes about life, love, loss, memories, family, change, and death – themes that in literature easily become boring and cliche – in a refreshing way.
Daytripper strikes me as unique both in the style in which it is written, and the use of the graphic novel template as a medium. The first several chapters of the book itself chart a year of the fictional protagonist’s life, and each end with his death – it isn’t until the end of the book that one realizes that Bras’ deaths were merely dreams, and that he has indeed lived a long life. As soon as it became evident that death was inevitable in each chapter, I paid more attention moment by moment to the life of Bras page by page – the intricate details of the illustrations, and every single word of text suddenly took on new relevance and importance. I believe that this is the essence of what the authors want to convey to their readers – the sentiment that death could happen at any moment, at any chapter of our life – if we really internalize that, how will that change how we live and view life? The written obitiuaries that accompany each of his deaths are also a question and answer within themselves – how would we be remembered, who would we be at any particular moment that death would claim us? This book
Another intriguing element in this novel is the chronological disorder of the chapters – the book begins at Bras’ life at 34 – yet the very next chapter introduces us to his 21 year old self, and it isn’t until several chapters later that we are introduced to 11 year self, and later still, we witness his “miracle” birth. I believe this stylistic approach serves several purposes; one of them being to de-emphasize the “big picture” long enough for the reader to focus on Bras’ life moment by moment.
Using the the graphic novel as the medium through which to tell this story allows its’ authors, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, to bring Daytripper to life in ways that would not be possible otherwise. Although it contains considerably less dialogue than the standardnovel, the visual component augments the narrative in a way that is just as poweful. The scarcity of text and the accompanying illustrations in the moments that they are saying them makes each word that much more powerful and less convoluted. Some examples include the use of these elements:
The use of scale captures the idea and power of life as a collective experience, without losing meaning in the more intimate moments of day to day life that could easily get overlooked.
The sequenced illustrations in the book put words into motion in a way that text can’t.
Athough text anaysis is limited with phic novel, iluminate symbolism and symbolic meaning without diluting or clouding up the message. This is a particularly interesting element in Bras’ dreams, which contain literary symbolism in art form. For example, Chapter Two is filled with various sketches of a turbulent storm, which provide insight into the conflict that still possess the the subconscious of Bra’s mind, and is manifested through his dreams.
The illustrations of Bras with Jorge in the desert are symbolic of the isolation Bras feels once his best friend abandons him.
In many of his nostalgic dreams about family, there is a large tree, his father’s tree, in the background. This is representative of Bra’s close ties to his family roots.