Life & Death in “Joyas Voladoras” by Brian Doyle


In the essay Joyas Voladoras, Brian Doyle profoundly contemplates life, death, and various deep meanings through the images, symbols, and metaphors. The focus of the work is the hearts of diametrically opposite in size representatives of the animal world, namely, hummingbirds and whales. Using these animals, the essay explores the similarity and association between all creatures living on the globe. Thus, this paper aims at examining four quotes from this piece of literature and delivering a reflection on my personal experiences and understanding gained after reading.


“The Price of Their Ambition is a Life Closer to Death” (Doyle)

Perhaps, this brief phrase full of empathy and even regret is, simultaneously, one of the most capacious in meaning and significance in the essay. It seems that the author attempts to insinuate that all people who strive for bright life replete with vivid impressions and intense experiences tend to die sooner than those who live more calmly. In pursuit of thrills, they like hummingbirds waste their vitality and drain their body. This idea concerns different individuals, including those who chase the risk and danger, those who tested overwhelming love, and those who sacrifice their life for a high purpose.

“The Animals with the Largest Hearts in the World Generally Travel in Pairs” (Doyle)

Despite its scientific appearance, this inspirational phrase bears deep metaphorical symbolism, namely, genuine, abiding love. Via this metaphor, the essay states that people who truly love somebody possess, at the same time, the tremendous hearts in the globe, which are capable of feats, accomplishments, and sacrifices. Moreover, only persons with such immense hearts never feel loneliness, abandonment, and emptiness. They always have someone they can live for and with whom they can share sad and the best moments.

“No Living Being is without Interior Liquid Motion. We All Churn Inside” (Doyle)

Disguising deep meaning again under scientific terms, the author implicitly indicates that all people, irrespective of their social status, influence, and income, can experience strong, deep feelings. These sensations can be diverse, ranging from horrible, sorrowful, and quick to wonderful, warm, and vital. In this regard, all human hearts can process, digest, and absorb impressions and emotions that lay prints on an individual’s consciousness.

“You Can Brick up Your Heart as Stout and Tight and Hard and Cold and Impregnable as you Possibly Can and Down It Comes in an Instant” (Doyle)

This quote conveys the idea that all people’s hearts are compassionate in reality despite that persons frequently try, sometimes deliberately, desperately, thoughtlessly, to harden or cover them. Life events, especially unpleasant and severe, also play a considerable role in intent insularity. Nevertheless, various powerful moments can break the curtain of isolation and encourage people to rethink their lives, views, and beliefs and interact with the surrounding world more tightly.


After reading the essay, I have made sure that Brian Doyle is an outstanding writer indeed, who manages to intertwine the beauty of artistic, poetic words with the depth of embedded meanings and images. In particular, I was impressed by how the author uses the whale’s heart to show the tremendous importance of genuine, unconditional love in persons’ lives. An individual disposed of love turns to stone little by little and begins to suffer bitterly without finding content and tranquility. This is the essence of human being, their activity, and existence. Besides, the essay has made me contemplate how close humanity, their activities, and actions are connected with nature, its phenomena, and processes. People can learn different clear morals and valuable knowledge from the surrounding environment.


In summary, the paper has explored four quotes from Joyas Voladoras by Brian Doyle and provided a reflection on my personal experiences gained after reading. In the first quote, on the example of the hummingbird, the author hints that the more intense life is, the faster people exhaust their vitality. The second quote implies that only individuals with great hearts capable of feats and sacrifices can experience genuine love. The third quotation assumes that human hearts, that is, souls, continually process numerous feelings and effects, including sorrowful, pleasant, extraordinary, quick, and lifelong. In the final quote, Doyle tries to explain that people’s hearts are highly sensitive and can react to particular dramatic events that usually come unexpectedly. Such moments can be powerful enough to unfreeze human indifference, callousness, and isolation.

In addition, I was impressed by how the author applies the metaphor of the whale’s heart to highlight the critical importance of genuine, unconditional love in persons’ lives. Overall, the animals’ hearts in the essay, one of which has “the size of an infant’s fingernail,” while another is “as big as a room,” are focal points that help translate the central themes to readers. The author tacitly provides a clear understanding that people’s hearts are inclined to experiencing deep impressions and feelings and, thus, can be easily hurt or even torn. However, they can be simultaneously tempered, and their injuries can heal gradually. I was also touched by the idea that humankind has an intimate association with nature. Thus, people should protect wildlife, primarily from the rampant expansion of civilization, since we all directly depend on its state.


Doyle, Brian. Joyas Voladoras. The American Scholar, 2012. Web.

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