There are many moments in life where you discover something that you knew, but know consciously for the first time, or perhaps, the feeling is so minor that we are not aware of it’s present.
There are also things that we learn about ourselves for the first time, usually only when we are going through difficult and odd parts in our life, we realise how important someone, or something means to us.
Jan has had enough of doing things that are expected, being told what is right to do and trying to be what the others wanted him to be. Jan has got to a state where life seems dull and hopefulness to him. He wants to find out more about himself. The story itself begins with recognition and consciousness. Jan, after having to have so much pressure put on him, recognize how dull life could go on if nothing were done to change it. Finding out about him is what he wants, in order to make life better.
When Jan had a fever, Tess and Adam spend the night together at the Toll Bridge. Jan was extremely jealous, however, ‘instead of anger or jealousy or resentment or envy or hard-on lust ‘ Jan felt calm. He would not had known that deep feeling about himself now and then, if he had not seen that odd moment, which I find quite repulsive. Being amazed is also one way of recognising ourselves, the way we react and observe. Jan has found out something new about himself by this sudden shock, consciously for the first time.
Friendship always begins with ‘the bad times and not with the good ones’. I totally agree with this statement. It is when we feel miserable that we realize how much we need our friends and their support. Similarly, only when we lose something, we recognise how much it means to us. Tess and Jan begin their friendship in a hard time when Jan was under the pressure of his parents, relatives and friends. Often when we are in difficult situation, the ones who give comfort are our true friends.
In the chapter ‘ Coming To’, after Adam is injured and banded his head, Jan dragged him in and took care of him. However, Jan did not know the motive of helping Adam knowing the fact that he hates to do things that have not been though out himself, but then he realises how aware it is ‘truly by thought that we come to do things’. May be sometimes when we have odd, strange reactions for something that are not expected by ourselves, there are something that we do not know or recognise about our mind, that is motivating and leading us to deal with matters that seems to be repulsive and unapproachable. Perhaps Jan felt that he is responsible for Adam, he is helping simply just because he ‘knows him’. If it were a stranger, would Jan do the same? We can never predict our reactions unless we know perfectly about ourselves, which, in my opinion, very few people do.
Also, when a disaster happens, we realise how little, or how well we can manage things on our own. Adam was in a mass and Jan had to clean him up in order to make him feel comfortable. Only because he is forced to deal with it, he realises that he had ‘ never cleaned up anybody before’. Jan has no idea that he is so reluctant about cleaning bodies consciously; he does not like ‘the idea of messing with another person’s gunged – up body’. On the other hand, after Jan cleaned Adam up and tend his wound, he is proud of himself as he never thought that he could manage these on his own, by himself. It is something new he learns about himself for the first time, finding out a good quality of himself. Perhaps, this is why it is good to take challenges sometimes, just to ‘unearth’ some good quality and a new side of ourselves. This is what Jan wants, ‘to find out who he really is’. It is the main theme of ‘The Toll Bridge’.
Jan finds the ‘dogwatch’ the hardest time at the bridge, but ‘a time of reckoning. Of recognition.’ Recognition always comes during a difficult time in our life. It is a way to learn our mistakes, relearn and finding out more elements in our character. This is why Jan wants to be alone in ‘The Toll Bridge’ to sort out himself.
There are moments in life where people change to adapt the situation, in order to make life easier. Sometimes, they are so powerful that make us ‘Recognised, acknowledged, accepted, it becomes part of the you you know’. There are moments in life where small event goes on that we think is unimportant. When the matter grows until it reaches a state that is powerful enough for us to acknowledge it, it is then usually too late for us to anything about it. It is too, a time when we regret for not recognising it earlier to make the final outcome different.
After Adam has returned to his normal state, Jan suddenly ‘realised how much he had come to love the river’. Recognition happens in the same pattern, after we have been though odd, strange parts of our life, recognition and regret suddenly appears from our hidden emotions. Maybe our body knows we are not ready to take this particular feeling, therefore has somehow hidden it away and release it when ‘it’ feels we are ready to handle and deal with the emotion. After all that has happened, Jan and Adam sit side by side near the river and they are clam, then memory comes with recognition. Jan realises how much he has enjoyed his childhood after being isolated on his own, not seeing his parents for so long makes him remember and the good times that he has had, and begin to value it a little more.
Jan realises how hash he has been on Gill after she has given up on him. When he gazes at her processions one by one, then he suddenly notices how ‘unthinking’,’ unfeeling’ and ‘unknowing’ he has been to Gill. He has no idea that he would show such a nasty attitude towards her. He regrets of being so horrible to her, but it is too late, recognition always happens after the event, after you can have chance to change the situation.
Knowing yourself and recognition seem to appear together, they are similar in a way. In some occasions, when you recognise something around you or about yourself, it might be something so minor that is though to be new, therefore considers as knowing yourself for the first time, but actually, you knew it unconsciously without being aware of the reorganisation.
In ‘The Toll Bridge’, no only is it base on these two main themes, but it is also about how Jan and Tess acknowledge themselves; their sexual recognition. The way Jan
considers relationships between friends and girlfriends are re-recognised, they are seen differently as they were. Jan knows more about himself and other people that are affected by him. For most of all, the aim of his arrival to’ The Toll Bridge’ is To’ find out who he really is’, which Jan has accomplished.