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Analyzing How Far I'll Go

Lyrics from How Far I'll Go, from Disney's Moana.

I've been staring at the edge of the water

The ocean water is a metaphor for the unknown, the Other, for thinking outside the box, for being a pioneer.

Long as I can remember, never really knowing why

People don't understand themselves very well.

I wish I could be the perfect daughter

But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try

Moana tries to follow her society's rules and fit in like her dad wants her to. "Perfect" refers to perfect conformity.

But she can't do it. Many people are content just to go with the flow of their society, but Moana is an ambitious hero. And as as the movie plot indicates (Moana's actions are necessary and helps her society), society needs some people who stand out, some explorers, pioneers and nonconformists.

Every turn I take, every trail I track

Every path I make, every road leads back

To the place I know where I cannot go

Where I long to be

Moana faces a conflict with her society. She tries to fit in, but there's friction. This is normal. Society tramples on the individual some. It may be pretty good, but it's not going to be a perfect fit for everyone. This is a common problem, especially for children, but most people accept their place as they grow up.

See the line where the sky meets the sea.
It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes

Society doesn't understand the world outside the society.

The line is a boundary line. Crossing a line is similar to breaking a rule. Moana wants to cross lines.

If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I'll know

Moana wants to push boundaries. She wants to go beyond her society's current knowledge.

This isn't a challenge to her society. She isn't attacking her society. She isn't calling it oppressive. She doesn't think the new knowledge will harm her society. She thinks it will be good. And in the movie, it is good for everyone.

Notice the if. Her plan involves uncertainty. The unknown involves unpredictability.

If I go there's just no telling how far I'll go

When you're a pioneer, you never know where the journey will take you. Once you step outside society's boundaries, there's no more societal structure to guide your or limit how far you go.

I know everybody on this island seems so happy, on this island
Everything is by design

Society has reasons for how it's organized. And it makes people happy and works pretty well.

I know everybody on this island has a role, on this island
So maybe I can roll with mine

People have roles in society. People try to figure out a role which works both for them and for society. Moana has a role which is accessible to her (chieftain's daughter who will later be chief), and has been trying to make herself want it. But she wants to be a pioneer.

I can lead with pride, I can make us strong
I'll be satisfied if I play along

She sees good things about the life role her society is offering her. She can accomplish worthwhile things within the role. She thinks she should be able to play the role and be satisfied, like other people do. (Or at least appear to do. Many others have similar struggles like Moana. But they don't always talk about it, and they often become satisfied and play along as they grow up.)

But the voice inside sings a different song
What is wrong with me?

Moana thinks something is wrong with her because she doesn't fit into her place in society. She has put a lot of effort into fitting in, but it's still not working. She wants something different.

See the light as it shines on the sea.

Moana wants to explore the sea (the unknown beyond her society's little world). The light on the see is positive symbolism. Light is holy, moral and illuminating. This is partly because light lets us see, and seeing lets us understand and deal with the world.

A dictionary definition of "illuminate" is "help to clarify or explain".

It's blinding

But the sea is difficult to deal with. Her society is blind to what the unknown is like. Moana can't currently see the world she wants to explore, but she believes it will be illuminating to go there.

But no one knows, how deep it goes

The unknown is scary and dangerous. You don't know how to control and organize it and put it in a safe, bounded structure.

And it seems like it's calling out to me, so come find me

And let me know

What's beyond that line, will I cross that line?

Moana wants to cross lines (explore outside boundaries, break rules). She's inspired to do this. She finds it appealing. She has an energetic, adventurous, heroic spirit.


Elliot Temple on July 3, 2017

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