The process of discovery is an innate human experience that may arise unexpectedly or may be the product of a significant event

The process of discovery is an innate human experience that may arise unexpectedly or may be the product of a significant event, ultimately shaping our internal and external contexts as well as our morals and values. Henceforth, discovery may act as a barrier that hinders one’s beneficial transformation, or often may conversely foster the restoration of positive values regarding self and others. This dichotomy is extensively explored in Robert Frost’s 1914 narrative poem, ‘Home Burial’, and 1896 pastoral poem, ‘The Tuft of Flowers’, as they both explore the two contrasting impacts of discovery on individuals and their ability to transform. These ideas are also paralleled in David Russell’s 2012 comedy-drama film, Silver Linings Playbook.

Challenging discoveries may trigger the re-evaluation of one’s situation and others involved, culminating in the downfall of relationships and hindering further transformation. This notion is demonstrated in ‘Home Burial’ whereby Frost illustrates the wife’s discovery of the husband’s insincere persona, triggered by the signficant tragedy of their son’s death. The alliteration in the wife’s confrontation towards her husband, “You could sit there with the stains on your shoes of the fresh earth from your own baby’s grave and talk about your everyday concerns”, outlines her disbelief at her husband’s nonchalant and heartless attitude towards burying their son, leading her to question, “who is that man?”. As stressed through the wife’s assertive tone, coupled with the caesura, “I must go – somewhere out of this house”, she rediscovers her husband and re-evaluates her situation, which ultimately hinders the positive development of the couple’s relationship, instead, marking the end. Henceorth, through their confrontation, the husband admits that his “words are nearly always an offense” and attempts to reconcile their fractured relationship, as conveyed through his pleading tone, “give me my chance”. This, however, fails to positively transform their relationship, emphasising the notion that challenging discoveries may act as a barrier in relationships and hinder its further transformation.

Correspondingly, Silver Linings Playbook, explores the notion of a significant discovery acting as a barrier to the development of one’s relationship with others. In the poem, ‘Home Burial’, the death of the son led to the discovery of the husband’s heartless qualities. Likewise in the film, Pat’s witness of his wife, Nikki’s, affair awakens his abusive nature, marking the breakdown of their relationship as demonstrated through the tracking shot coupled with the narration of Pat recounting the discovery of his wife’s affair with the history teacher. This subsequently reveals the violent side of Pat as portrayed through the rapid crosscutting of his abuse on the teacher, accompanied by the intense non-diegetic music. Thus, Pat’s abusive nature along with his mental instability is rediscovered and reconfirmed by Nikki, and a “restraining order” is placed on him, emphasising their fractured marriage. Moreover, the discovery of Pat’s violent intrinsic self, further leads to his diagnosis with “Bipolar mental illness” and subsequent admission into the mental institution, hindering the further development of his relationship with Nikki. Nevertheless, Pat strives for reconciliation with Nikki as expressed through the optimistic tone in the dialogue, “Nikki is waiting for me to get in shape and get my life in order”, paralleling the husband in ‘Home Burial’ who pursued the rebuilding of their relationship. However, the relationship between Nikki and Pat is hindered in its development despite the effort Pat makes to reconcile.

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Establishing connections with others, centred upon shared values, can precipitate the process of discovery allowing for the transformation of one’s intrinsic and extrinsic worldview. Frost explores this notion in the poem, ‘The Tuft of Flowers’, through the persona’s initial state of isolation, as highlighted through the metaphorical sensory imagery, “I looked for him behind an isle of trees; I listened for his whetstone on the breeze”, alluding to an ‘island’ context to demonstrate his immediate disconnected and lonely state. The nostalgic tone gradually shifts as signalled by the conjunction, ‘But’ in the following stanza where the speaker is disturbed by a “bewildered butterfly”. This butterfly is symbolic of the speaker’s intrinsic mind and also acts as a facilitator to his discovery of the natural catalyst, the “tall tuft of flowers”. Through this natural catalyst, the persona connects spiritually with the “mower in the dew” who had left the flowers to “flourish” as he had “loved them” too, thus discovering their shared value of appreciating nature. Hence, despite the physical absence of the mower, due to their shared value, the persona is transformed to feel “a spirit kindred to my own” and is also awakened to rediscover the external context of his surroundings. This is illustrated through the rhyming couplet in conjunction with the personification, “That made me hear the wakening birds around, and hear his long scythe whispering to the ground”, which juxtaposes with the isolated ‘island’ context at the beginning of the poem, reinforcing his transformed worldview upon discovering another individual with shared values.

Likewise, Silver Linings Playbook, illustrates that the discovery of another individual with similar circumstances can foster the transformation of their central mindset. Initially, the protagonist Pat stubbornly neglects to accept his “bipolar mental illness” and pursues reconciliation with Nikki as he misleadingly thinks that “we’re very, very much in love”. Pat’s neglect of his condition is depicted through the extreme close-up shot of the rejected medicine along with the self-reaffirmation that “I am better now”. However, his ultimate goal to reconcile with Nikki serves as a catalyst to his unexpected discovery of Tiffany, whose husband “died” and got “fired” at her job, paralleling to Pat’s circumstances of being single as well as being jobless. Thus, due to their commonality, Pat’s status is understood by Tiffany and so he is able to make connections with her as portrayed through the engaged tone in their rapid interchange of dialogue about medication, “You ever take Klonopin?”,”Klonopin? Yeah…it flattens you out”. Ultimately, Pat’s discovery of Tiffany intrigues him to transform his hopeless goal of reconciling with Nikki, into building a hopeful relationship with Tiffany by the act of becoming her dancing partner which is further confirmed by the close-up shot of his confession, “I love you”. Moreover, the mid-shot of Pat taking the medication juxtaposes with the earlier scene, reaffirming his transformed mindset about himself, echoing the persona in ‘The Tuft of Flowers’ whose discovery of the “mower” transformed his intrinsic and extrinsic worldview.