Zen Pencils

Here is a link to the Original Cartoon

When sifting through the many cartoons on Gavin Than’s “Zen Pencils,” one titled “The Fig Tree” caught my eye. Not only was its artwork less abstract than many of the rest, but its message about life’s important choices was much more universally applicable. Throughout the comic, a girl is faced with choosing between her possible futures (represented by the figs on a tree), but cannot pick between all the pleasant options and ends up running out of time to make the decision. I, like many of my classmates, will soon graduate high school and must come to a decision on what to do for my college years, and this situation is represented perfectly by the cartoon. Although there are plenty of great futures to choose from, finding one to pursue and sticking with my decision is essential; otherwise, my options could disappear.

The significance of Gavin Than’s comic is obvious enough to any reader, but some of his art and wording is especially helpful in conveying meaning. For example, every one of the imagined futures shows a content or joyous girl while the images of reality show her either overwhelmed or weeping in despair. Such details in the drawings were a perfect addition in order to show how deeply the decision consumed her. In addition, Than writes that she began “starving to death” because “choosing one meant losing all the rest.” Strong images of hunger and loss certainly highlight the difficulty of the girl’s choice, but also show the girl’s inexperience in the world. Since she must make this important decision at such a young age, she has not yet realized that choosing one path does not completely eliminate all the others.


2 thoughts on “Zen Pencils

  1. I like the comic that you picked because it is very applicable to all adolescents facing important life decisions. Not all adolescents are absolutely sure about what path they want to take in life, but many of them have a wide array of interests and have some inclination about which path is the right one for them. Many of these young people, myself including, have never had to make these tough decisions about their futures up until now, so they face an unfamiliar situation. I agree with you that committing to a certain path at a young age does not mean you cannot change your mind later; what’s important is picking some path before all your proverbial figs dry up and your opportunities disappear.


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