Star Rover - Straight Jacket
The Star Rover (published in the UK as The Jacket), one of the greatest novels by Jack London, is a gem of his literary genius.
Darrell Standing, professor of agriculture, in a fit of jealousy kills a colleague. An armchair scientist, he has to live through all the nightmares of a Californian prison. However, human spirit triumphs over human flesh and Standing finds a way to leave his body, tied up in a special “jacket,” to become an interstellar wanderer.
Let us pay attention to the sharp boundaries of darkness and light in the painting. While the body of the prisoner inhabits the dark space of the cell, his head is up in the bright corner of the window opening. It can be said, that while his body, his flesh, is confined in a ‘straight jacket,’ his mind is roaming free in contemplation. In another instant, his spirit, like a bird breaking out of its cage, will leave the gloomy rectangle of the prison chamber and soar up to the light, to Heaven Divine!
It is interesting that for Plato, a caged bird was a metaphor of the mind. Note also that Christian religion interprets being bound to the book as symbolic of Divine revelation – St John the Divine, for example, was depicted as absorbed in the Book of Revelation.