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Joy Ride

Michelle Cronin Professor Radford English 101 8 October 2012 Begging for an Escape “Joy Ride” is a short story written by Richard Russo. It features a boy, John Dern, and his mother, who both long for an escape from their lives at the time. This story follows the theme that one key aspect the human condition is the search for an escape.

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At some point in life, most humans wish to escape their past and present state of living. There may be many motivating factors behind this. However, most attempt to escape for one of three main reasons.

These include using an escape as a means of finding freedom, an escape to help another person, or just as a temporary move to solve a problem. In this story, John and his mother have all three reasons in the back of their minds as they see their lives disappear in the rearview mirror. John’s mother wants an escape so that she can be free. Free from stress, free from worry, free from her husband… So she leaves a note with a simple goodbye and she is off. She takes her son with her and breaks free from the ties that bind her. She believes that this country is big enough for a fresh start for the both of them.

She says, “It’s not only a free country, it’s a big one. Big enough for us to get lost in. We’re bound for freedom, sweetie” (76). John’s mother is trying to explain to him that this country is huge, and that if the two of them try, they can get lost in the freedom. They have the power and the ability to leave, escaping the lifestyle they are in right now. By leaving, they have the opportunity make anything of their future. John’s mother also explains that she wants to be free from the marriage that is slowly ripping her apart.

She says, “It’s just that living with him – being married to him – is just like being covered with these little cuts all the time. There’s no big gash you can show anybody, nothing they’d believe would really hurt, but these damn little nicks, they suck the blood right out of you” (92). John’s mother would like to be free of her husband’s ties that seem to terrorize her wherever she goes. It appears that he does nothing to cause her extraordinary pain, but the little problems are the ones that hurt her the most. Just being with her husband leaves her with all of these painful thoughts and memories every single day.

It’s the little problems that John’s mother is trying so hard to escape. However, her motivation for escape also has to do with John. He needs this escape as much as his mother. John was growing up and falling in with the wrong crowd, making very bad decisions. His “friends” talk of a trip they took to Old Orchard Beach in Maine. When thinking about this, John decides that he too needs to get out of Camden. “This is exactly the kind of adventure I feared and longed for” (78). In this quote, John is conveying his need for escape. His mother sees how necessary an escape is and how desperately John needs a new outlook on life.

And this is exactly what his mother intends to give him. As they go on their journey, both John and his mother experience a little taste of the freedom they have hungered for. Years later when discussing the trip, his mother explains the real reason behind the joy ride. “I’ll tell you what I do remember. I remember that the reason for that trip was you. What I remember was the vicious little monster you were becoming” (110). In this quote, John’s mother is revealing her true motive behind their escape. She wanted to give him an experience that would allow him to change the way he was behaving before it became too late.

Her son was falling in with the wrong crowd and she wanted him to get out of there as fast as possible before he did something horrible. Whether the escape is permanent or temporary, it remains a memory that will forever be engrained in one’s mind. An escape can last anywhere from minutes to a lifetime, but it will remain a memory throughout one’s entire life. For example, when reminiscing, John says “This whole trip was nothing more than a joy ride, like the one my junior high friends had taken, and now I could understand their reluctance to talk about it.

No doubt it had been a shabby thing, devoid of glory” (108). John is saying that their escape had only been a temporary freedom and that it ended shortly after it had begun. In comparing his joy ride with that of his friends, he claims that both did not end up the way they had imagined and that he did not want to talk about it, just as his friends had not wanted to talk about their trip. However, he goes on to say “More than twenty years now, as I think back on our joy ride that spring, it seems far more remarkable than it did at the time…” (109).

He is expressing his sincere thought on the subject in that even after decades have passed. Although it seemed to somewhat fail because he and his mother ended up going back to his father at the time, with time, he begins to realize that the trip meant more than he originally thought. No matter how long or short the escape is, the memory will last a lifetime. The word escape can be defined in many ways. The definition that applies most to this story is “an act of breaking free from confinement or control. ” In “Joy Ride,” John and his mother were begging for an escape from their life.

Throughout the actual trip, John’s mother had him convinced that she wanted to escape from her husband. But at the end of the story after years have passed, she explains that the true reason behind the escape was to change the path he was walking. John needed to escape the group he was in. People attempt to escape for many reasons. For John and his mother, it was for freedom, freedom from John’s father, freedom from the expectations of John’s friends. And although it was not a permanent escape, it will be permanently engrained in the minds of both John and his mother.