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Motivation provides the drive and direction behind the actions one takes to pursue honesty. In the film Big Fish, directed by Tim Burton, William Bloom strives to find the truth behind his father’s fanciful tales by beginning to investigate and eventually understand this man and his penchant for storytelling. Being a strong parallel of Odysseus, his father uses his charm and ambition to create experiences based from his own perception and imagination, in hopes to ensure that his legacy will live on. This legacy is one that his son sees as false and feels bitterness towards. Burton’s film Big Fish suggests the idea that motivation can drive individuals to search for the inevitable truth; however, this truth is often fabricated and individuals must be open to multiple perspectives of the truth in order to escape dismay.
As William grows older, his frustration towards his father’s lack of honesty through his fantastical tales continues to grow, thus increasing the strain between their relationships. Throughout his childhood, although he enjoyed the imagination and creativity these stories brought upon his life, with time they simply turned to make belief, exaggerated versions of the truth. By “never [telling him] a single fact”, William sees his relationship with his father as almost superficial, holding no significant importance and never truly flourishing. Mythological forces shape the stories his father tells and these stories estrange William from his father. He urges for the plain truth beneath his father’s obsessive desire to disguise the truth in stories, a truth where his father can “just show [him] who [he is] for once”. William attempts to search for this truth and in turn seek reconciliation within this distant relationship.
The distance between William and his father continues to grow, up until he gets struck with the news of his dying father, compulsing William to attempt to heal the wounded parts of their relationship. Being taken off of chemotherapy treatment creates a subtle but increasing tension with William’s family. Furthermore, it serves as a reminder of the unpredictability of one’s destiny and the mystic powers of the witch’s prophecy. Although the audience was kept disclosed of the witch’s prediction of how Edward will die, Edward now knowing “that’s how [he will] go”, gets filled with a courage that motivates his success in overcoming particular adversities because he realizes those perils are not he dies. This confidence slowly turns to tranquility, for even on his deathbed, Edward seems to find comfort rather than fear. William, still struggling to understand how during a time of distress his father is unable to give up on his stories and maintain his charismatic attitude, gets filled with a restlessness of his future. By continuing to share his stories, Edward maintains his serene behavior, while William’s confusion and desire to unscramble his father’s false stories continues to grow. His father’s imminent death is forcing him to act
Nearing his father’s final days, William comes to terms with Edward’s narratives and finishes his story, thus showing his eventual acceptance of his father. Edward, resistant to the hospital bed ending not prophesied by the witch’s glass eye needs his son’s help to fabricate a dramatic, fanciful getaway. By agreeing to participate, William embraces his father’s perspective of the truth. In doing so, Edward transforms into a fish, escaping the limitations of the hospital and being caught by William, who replaces Edward as a father figure role in their relationship. It serves as a reminder that “fate has a way of circling back on a man and taking him by surprise” through William’s improved understanding of his father’s version of the truth. Moreover, after witnessing elements of truth from his father’s stories during his funeral, William becomes more appreciative of the beloved hero his father truly was and becomes pleased to have been able to carry forward a grand “exit” for a powerful man who deserved nothing less. Over time, William continues to carry forward his father’s love for adventure and his genuine determination by passing on his legacy of storytelling to his own son, serving as a final token of his acceptance towards his stories.
By seeking to unravel the truth behind his father’s stories, William begins to understand that the truth he was so determined to discover was not the truth that would allow him to grasp his father’s true self and perception of life. Using his stories as defense mechanisms to avoid the real problems at hand, allows Edward to use the power of imagination to help transcend limitations. Upon finishing Edward’s story of how he goes, William finally realizes that he shares his father’s ability to help others escape the ordinary. He happily accepts these dramatized versions of the truth, for he realizes that his father’s notion of life was to simply live in a larger environment where he could self-create by aggrandizing his world with the embellishments of narration and never getting caught. Burton suggests that individuals will be motivated to find the instinctive truth; however, the course of action that follows will allow one to discover new perspectives, ones filled with more innovation and fantasy.
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