Jonathan Livingston Seagull


Richard Bach

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Themes and Colors
Individualism vs. Collectivism Theme Icon
Innovation vs. Tradition  Theme Icon
Self-Determination Through Mind, Body, and Spirit Theme Icon
The Misinterpretation of Doctrine Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Individualism vs. Collectivism

The titular character of Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull is an independent gull who would rather practice aerodynamic flight techniques than forage for food in the wake of the fishing boats that chug up and down the shoreline of the Flock’s home. Jonathan’s staunch individualism initially seems in direct opposition to the collectivism of the Flock. The members of the Flock do everything the exact same way, day after day, and never question the…

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Innovation vs. Tradition

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is, at its core, a story of how innovation, progress, and self-discovery all require what can often be a painful or difficult break with tradition. Longing to free himself from his Flock’s rigid, boring routines, and convinced that there is more to life than just hunting for food, Jonathan practices increasingly difficult and dangerous flight maneuvers, edging away from not only the Flock’s comfort zone, but also from his own. As he…

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Self-Determination Through Mind, Body, and Spirit

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is an ode to self-determination through transcendence of the body and discovery of the limitless nature of the mind and the spirit. Jonathan longs to be in control of his own life and govern himself independently of his hegemonic, small-minded Flock. His experiments in airborne acrobatics begin as a way to distinguish himself from the rest of the group and explore the possibilities of his small life. However, as Jonathan becomes a…

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The Misinterpretation of Doctrine

The fourth and final section of Jonathan Livingston Seagull flashes forward nearly two hundred years after Jonathan’s disappearance from the face of the earth and supposed ascendance to heaven. In the centuries that have passed, Jonathan’s teachings of introspection, self-determination, and the pursuit of one’s individual truth have been misinterpreted, warped, and picked apart like so much chum. As the reader works their way through the final pages of the story, an obvious…

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