Created By: GayGeek on May 29, 2013 Last Edited By: lakingsif on October 2, 2016

Westward Journey

More often than not, in fiction, journeys will be headed west

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Trope
"For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire...Or it is just where you go."
All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren

So you're reading a story/watching a movie etc and someone, usually The Protagonist, has to embark on a journey somewhere. Maybe The Hero has to go rescue the oppressed, maybe it's a family migrating to a place where they hope to live better lives. Whatever the case, it's very likely that they'll be headed west.

Several circumstances conspire together to make west the direction to go:
First, going west means our hero(es) will be coming from the east, which means the sun will rise behind them. It is widely accepted that the sun is a metaphor for light and all that is good and righteous. Similarly, dawn is a metaphor for new beginnings and hopes. So going west is a sort of Visual Metaphor, showing that our hero is bringing new hopes for better life with them.
Furthermore, from a cinematic prospective, it makes for a very heroic and awesome shot.
Another reason has to do with recent history- When Europe was in an expansionist movement, they started going north, east, and south. To the west was a vast and dangerous ocean. When Europe was running out of room, they tried going west and found a continent that was entirely new. So "west" became the direction of exploration, challenge, and great rewards.
As America became colonized and purchased the Louisiana territory, west was STILL waiting for European-descended explorers, and held challenge and land for anyone who could defend their territory. These events are still recent in a sense to the human race, and so "west" has become associated with "frontier" and "adventure" tropes.
In the Eastern world, the passage of the great ocean seemed impossible, so Japan is the furthest East one can travel. If one wishes to explore new things, then West (where the light-skinned, wide-eyed, freaks with giant noses come from) to the mountains is where you must go.

Note: this trope is for when the journey west is a part of the plot. If at the end of the plot our heroes are heading west this is Riding into the Sunset.

This trope is related to Left-Justified Fantasy Map. Often used along with Cue the Sun. For the video game equivalent see When All Else Fails, Go Right.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Mushrambo. The heroes head west to Shinzo, where the last human city is, in order to save humanity. Also throughout the show Yakumo repeatedly says something along the lines of "always going west, to Shinzo".

    Film 

    Literature 

    Live Action TV 
  • In the last episode of Wild Boys, Jack Keenan and Dan Sinclair ride into the sunset heading for Western Australia to start a new life in a place where they are not wanted by the law.
  • The The X-Files episode "Drive" has Agent Mulder drive stricken Patrick Crump due west at high speed. Crump and his wife lived near an antenna array that caused their inner ear pressure to escalate. Driving fast due west through the Earth's magnetic field was the only way to relieve the terrible pain.

    Music 

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In The Odyssey, Odysseus is trying to get back from Troy to Greece, heading west.
  • Generally speaking, in The Bible there is a tendency to view migration east as negative and migration west as positive (see Genesis 11:2, 13:12, 25:6).

    Real Life 
  • The following quote, attributed to Horace Greeley:
    "Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country."


Community Feedback Replies: 87
  • May 29, 2013
    Larkmarn
    There's four cardinal directions. If people are going somewhere, there's a 1/4 chance it's west. I don't think this is common enough to consider a trend.

    ... that said, there is an episode of Pokemon called "Go West, Young Meowth." And of course Journey To The West.
  • May 29, 2013
    GayGeek
    here're some exapmles:

    1)Percy Jackson and the lightning thief- the prophecy given clearly states Percy will "go west to face the god who has turned" 2) Mushrambo- throughout the show, Yakumo repeatedly says "Always facing west, to Shinzo" (the city the heroes are supposed to get to) 3)In the Odyssey,Odysseus is trying to get back from Troy to Greece,heading west 4)the full quote which I used for the name: For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar's gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go 5)"Go west" by pet-shop boys and "Going out west" by "Tom Waits 6) In the Wizard of Oz, the heroes set out to defeat the wicked witch of the west (guess which direction they go) 7) Broadly speaking, in the Old testement there is a tendency to view migration west as positive and migration east as negative (Jenosis 11/2, 13/12, 25/6)

    I urge you to reconsider
  • May 29, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    This is actually a really common one (though not in this specific form). Since we in the Western world read from left to right, even Picture Books and Comics tend to portray a traveling character moving from the left side of the page/panel to the right, whereas the dangerous/conflicting element often comes from the right. In countries where people read from right to left (like Japan) this is reversed.

    Also, this is of course related to Left Justified Fantasy Map.
  • May 29, 2013
    jbrecken
    If the journey is taken at the end of the story, this could be Riding Into The Sunset
  • May 29, 2013
    Marz1200
    The video game equivalent is When All Else Fails Go Right.
  • May 29, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.
    --Horace Greeley, 1865 (maybe)
  • May 29, 2013
    m8e
    This might be related to Left Justified Fantasy Map.

    Ooh^^^^
  • May 29, 2013
    Duncan
    "Go West, young man" is a quote by American author Horace Greeley concerning America's expansion westward, related to the then-popular concept of Manifest Destiny. [1], which is (and somewhat explains) the Ur Example.
  • May 29, 2013
    Larkmarn
    ^ *coughcough*Journey To The West*coughcough*
  • May 30, 2013
    foxley
    In the last episode of Wild Boys, Jack Keenan and Dan Sinclair ride into the sunset heading for Western Australia to start a new life in a place where they are not wanted by the law.
  • May 30, 2013
    Surenity
    An American Tail: Fievel Goes West is an obvious example, though the first film may also count since Fievel's family travels west from Europe to America.
  • May 30, 2013
    Duncan
    ^^^ Yes, Larkmarn, I should have said Horace Greeley was the American Ur Example, due to the United States being settled in the East, and the Westward expansion thereof.
  • May 30, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    The "Pet Shop Boys" song was in Dance Dance Revolution EXTREME.
  • May 31, 2013
    SquirrelGuy
    Inverted (and likely parodied) in the film Wagons East (1994).
  • May 31, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Duncan shared part of WHY we say, "go west". When Europe was in an expansionist movement, they started going north, east, and south. To the west was a vast and dangerous ocean. When Europe was running out of room, they tried going west and found a continent that was entirely new. So "west" became the direction of exploration, challenge, and great rewards. As America became colonized and purchased the Louisiana territory, west was STILL waiting for European-decended explorers, and held challenge and land (great reward) for anyone who could defend their territory. These events are still recent in a sense to the human race, and so "west" has become associated with "frontier" and "adventure" tropes.

    In the Eastern world, the passage of the great ocean seemed impossible, so Japan is the furthest East one can travel. If one wishes to explore new things, then West (where the light-skinned, wide-eyed, freaks with giant noses come from) to the mountains is where you must go.
  • June 1, 2013
    GayGeek
    so tropers I patched up the description but i don't know how to add links and the like. If anyone can explain that so it'll look more like an actual entry I'd be really glad
  • June 1, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Ok, did some formatting. If you need help in this kind of thing, here is where you find it: Text Formatting Rules.
  • June 1, 2013
    GayGeek
    Thank you so much! you rock!
  • June 1, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Did a pronoun trick; "them" can be used as a plural or singular, and doesn't identify gender. I think the line about cimetography can be folded into the previous paragraph, as the Visual Metaphor sentence provides a nice segue.

    Might want Cue The Sun
  • June 1, 2013
    GayGeek
    Thank you, added.
  • June 2, 2013
    BearyScary
    @/randomsurfer: I think that's a cool quote for a potential quotes subpage.
  • June 2, 2013
    TonyG
    The Land Before Time: Littlefoot is told to follow the Great Circle (the sun) to find the Great Valley, meaning that it lies west.
  • June 2, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    I think The Western and Cowboy Episode should be wicked (and the latter cross wicked). Your description is pretty good now, and the laconic accurate.

    The name is non-indicative, since west has meaning beyond one of the four directions, but I have no suggestions.
  • June 2, 2013
    sunlitgarden
    • In The Lord Of The Rings, the Elves sail west to the Undying Lands to leave Middle-earth when they grow weary of it.

    (If someone else wants to expand on this that would be great, as I am hardly an expert on LOTR -- still working my way through the books.)
  • June 2, 2013
    tardigrade
    The Pet Shop Boys' song "Go West" is a cover of a Village People song of the same name. Strange to mention the cover but not the original.
  • June 2, 2013
    crazysamaritan
  • June 3, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Live Action TV
    • The X Files episode "Drive" has Agent Mulder drive stricken Patrick Crump due west at high speed. Crump and his wife lived near an antenna array that caused their inner ear pressure to escalate. Driving fast due west through the Earth's magnetic field was the only way to relieve the terrible pain.
  • June 18, 2013
    ArcadesSabboth
    I folderized the draft. There are some Zero Context Example's here that need to be expanded.

    The Lord of the Rings is not an example of this, it has Riding Into The Sunset instead.

    The All he Kings Men example will need to be rephrased: it is never correct to write an example referring to the page quote, because page quotes can be changed. This one may be too long to simply repeat in the example section (which is normally what you do) so I recommend putting a copy of the quote on the Quotes/trope page after launching this.
  • June 19, 2013
    AgProv
    Music: used on several levels by the Blue Oyster Cult in Then Came The Last Days of May
    they're OK, the last days of May;
    In the freezin' dry air,
    I'm leavin' soon, the others are already there;
    If'n you're interested, come along,
    Instead of stayin' here -
    They say the West is nice this time of year (that's what they say)

    "Going West" is used both in the physical geographical sense, and the metaphorical sense of dying and going on the ultimate trip west.... the song is about sudden death in the desert, as would-be drug smugglers follow the Mexican border looking for a safe and unguarded crossing-point.
  • June 19, 2013
    robbulldog
    Pardon the obvious, but couldn't this trope just be named "Go West, Young Man" ?
  • June 19, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Not kosher with certain rules.

    I want to make a rhyme like Quest To The West.
  • June 20, 2013
    Chabal2
    Warcraft III: the plot gets kicked off when the Prophet urges Thrall and later Jaina to take their people (oircs and humans respectively) to the previously-unknown western continent of Kalimdor, as the eastern kingdoms are lost to the Undead. By allying themselves with the local night elves, they can oppose a sufficient force to repel the demonic invaders.
  • June 23, 2013
    ArcadesSabboth
    Looking at Riding Into The Sunset, I guess LOTR doesn't really have that, since they go West to get away from conflict and action, but it isn't this trope either since the story doesn't follow their journey.

    But The Silmarillion might have an example of this trope. Towards the beginning of the book, the elves have awakened somewhere in Middle-earth and are being attacked and kidnapped by Big Bad Morgoth's minions. After the Valar (angelic powers) and their army of lesser angels come to Middle-earth to save the elves and defeat Morgoth in war, they decide to invite the elves to live in their continent, Valinor. It's an earthly paradise almost entirely free from the corruption Morgoth has seeped into the World, and has enough light to see clearly, and isn't infested with Morgoth's surviving minions. Most of the elves accept this invitation and go on a long journey, on foot, called the Great March. When the get to the western sea, the Valar pull up an entire island to use as a ferry to bring the elves to Valinor. But the Great March only takes up 1.5 chapters, so I don't know if it counts. It's a pivotal piece of backstory, but not the focus of the book.

    ^The above is not a draft for a main page example. I don't even know if it counts for this trope.
  • June 23, 2013
    Prfnoff
    In "Opportunity" from Bounce (one of the earlier versions of Stephen Sondheim's Road Show), Papa tells his sons to go west, forgetting in his deathbed delirium that they're already in California.
  • June 29, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    ^^ Silmarillion isn't a book; it's a collection of notes.

    I would try something along these lines....
    • The Silmarillion contains a story called "The Great March", about the elves trying to escape the corruption of Morgoth. The Valar help the elves reach Valinor, a paradise untouched by evil, while the elves must cross the continent on foot, and ride an island across the Western sea.
  • June 30, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ The Silmarillion is a book like any other. It's not a novel (it's more of a collection), but a book nonetheless.
  • July 25, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Fine, Silmarillion isn't a novel; it's a collection of notes. :P
  • December 9, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    This has been quiet for some time but I have another example:

    [[folder:Webcomics]] [[folder]]
  • December 9, 2013
    abateman
  • December 9, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    how about Journeying Towards The West? less awkward, and you can put in an I Thought It Meant Journey To The West or Backstroke Of The West somewhere in the description.
  • December 10, 2013
    Arivne
    The current title West Is Where We All Plan To Go sounds like a line of dialogue and thus violates No New Stock Phrases. If launched with that title it will be immediately Cut Listed, and if Fast Eddie sees it on YKTTW he may simply discard it for that reason, as he has done to a number of others with the same flaw.
  • December 10, 2013
    DAN004
  • December 10, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    What about just Westward Journey? I also like Stratadrake's Quest To The West.
  • December 10, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Like the latter
  • December 10, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    Westward Journey is clear, concise, witty exactly in that order.

    I'm Lovin' It.

    still want the Backstroke of the West reference in though.
  • December 10, 2013
    Sackett
    Go West Young Man is the traditional phrase.
  • December 10, 2013
    gallium
    "The current title West Is Where We All Plan To Go sounds like a line of dialogue and thus violates No New Stock Phrases."

    This seems like an overreaction. "West is where we all plan to go" doesn't sound like a line of dialogue to me, not one we're likely to hear, unless you're dealing with a bad screenwriter.

    But Westward Journey is in fact better.

    The Horace Greeley quote would be an excellent page quote, being concise, and summarizing the idea of traveling west in the direction of renewal, rebirth, and discovery.

    Music

    • "Go West" by Liz Phair, in which the singer journeys west to start anew and escape a bad relationship.
      Safe on/the interstate
      New York/is three thousand miles away
  • December 10, 2013
    gallium
    Took the liberty of correcting the spelling of "Genesis" and the formatting of chapter-verse in the initial post.
  • December 10, 2013
    CrimsonZephyr
    Go West Young Man might be a better title.
  • December 10, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Please read No New Stock Phrases.
  • December 28, 2013
    gallium
    Status check?
  • December 28, 2013
    Dawnwing
    Literature:

    • At the start of the second series of Warrior Cats, the main characters receive a sign that they must head toward a place where the sun drowns in the water each night - i.e. journey to the west, toward the sea.
  • December 29, 2013
    DAN004
  • December 29, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Adding context and namespacing for existing examples:

    • Fievel's family does this twice. An American Tail tells the story of their travel from Europe to America, as they escape the cats of Russia. Then the sequel, An American Tail Fievel Goes West, has the family continuing to a midwest frontier town where "cats and mice live in harmony".
    • Inverted and parodied in the comedy Wagons East, where the failing settlers hire a wagon master to help them leave the West, and return to the homes they left behind when they tried frontier life.

    • Journey To The West is an ancient chinese story about Xuanzang and his mission to find the scrolls of Buddha and bring them back home. He and his protectors go far west, beyond the mountains, to find the scrolls.

    • Pet Shop Boys have a song, "Go West", where the "west" in the song is a paradise the singer is inviting people to join him in going to.
    • Tom Waits has a song, "Goin' Out West", where the singer is trying to escape his current life and start a new one "out west", where people will "appreciate him".

    • In The Odyssey, Odysseus is trying to go home, after the events of The Illiad. The story is about the seven-year journey it takes him to return to his wife.
  • December 29, 2013
    kjnoren
    I don't believe this can be made into a general trope—characters have a tendency to go off in all sorts of directions, even in the same work. Including The Odyssey feels just strange—of course Odysseys is going west, because he's going back home, and he happened to have travelled east first to Troy. How else was he to get home? (Yeah, yeah, I know...)

    Now, going west is a quite American trope, where the west is associated with breaking new frontiers and a new start in life, but that's not what you seem to be going for here.
  • December 29, 2013
    gallium
    ^"Now, going west is a quite American trope, where the west is associated with breaking new frontiers and a new start in life"

    Then it's a trope, yes?
  • December 29, 2013
    DAN004
    To the west of USA is the Pacific and then the Far East. Is it true historically that those two things were "associated with breaking new frontiers and a new start in life" to the Americans?
  • December 29, 2013
    gallium
    ^No, the idea of "associated with breaking new frontiers and a new start in life" is about traveling from the eastern part of the U.S. to the western part (The Wild West) and the West Coast, especially California.
  • December 29, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Leaving Europe to colonize the Americas is also "associated with breaking new frontiers and a new start in life". Yes, KJ, it is the objective, here.
  • December 29, 2013
    dalek955
    • In Chasing The Sunset Leaf's party is headed west because that's the direction the big flood swept his father towards.
  • December 30, 2013
    kjnoren
    ^^ But that we one already have, in Settling The Frontier.

    Just going west in general can only be a Trope In Aggregate.
  • December 30, 2013
    DAN004
    @ gallium: Gesundheit.
  • December 30, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Settling is about a colony. Not the journey. An example to illustrate:
    1. first book about the life of a Peasant in rural France
    2. the sequel is his trip to the Virginia colony with English settlers, ending with reaching land.
    3. the first five years of colony hardship in Virginia
    4. leaving Virginia to become a trapper beyond the Mississippi river.
    5. making a home in the Arkansas mountains.
    Story one is neither trope. Stories 2 and 4 are about the journey only. Stories 3 and 5 are actually about settling the new frontier. If the existing examples are doing their job correctly, it should show how the journey itself is a metaphor for growth and new life. The Illiad still bothers me, it may be so old that this trope isn't applicaple to the meaning.
  • December 30, 2013
    kjnoren
    In that case, you need a trope about what west means, eg the dream of freedom, justice, reasonably priced love, and a hard-boiled egg.

    Otherwise it's either a Trope In Aggregate or People Sit On Chairs.

    For what it's worth, the song "Go West" was first released by Village People.
  • December 30, 2013
    DAN004
    "you need a trope about what west means, eg the dream of freedom, justice, reasonably priced love, and a hard-boiled egg."

    Well, this trope is where we discuss it...
  • December 31, 2013
    gallium
    ^^^^"Gesundheit".

    I don't get it.

    ^^"In that case, you need a trope about what west means, eg the dream of freedom, justice, reasonably priced love, and a hard-boiled egg."

    Isn't that exactly what we're talking about?

  • December 31, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Maybe I should say "I stand corrected" than "Gesundheit". (It's a Stock Phrase, btw.)
  • January 1, 2014
    kjnoren
    ^^ Not from the way the description is written or the way most examples look. There, it's simply "people going westwards", which can only be a Trope In Aggregate.
  • January 1, 2014
    eroock
    Film: In the post-apocalyptic movie The Book Of Eli, Eli has been told to go west until he finds a place where the book will be safe and useful.
  • August 3, 2014
    arbiter099
    Does this count?

    • Inverted in A Dance With Dragons where most of the plots of the cast involve trekking to the far east to meet Daenerys Targaryen for various, mostly political, reasons.
  • August 4, 2014
    Arivne
    • Deleted unnecessary blank line(s).
    • Added blank line(s) for readability.
    • Corrected spelling (decended).
    • Namespaced work name(s).
    • De-capitalized word(s): (West).
  • August 4, 2014
    gallium
    Several examples (including mine) not added to the entry yet.
  • August 4, 2014
    DAN004
    Who wanna grab this?
  • August 6, 2014
    AgProv
    Music;
    • Led Zeppelin
      On we sweep! With flashing oar! We're going to go and seize that western shore! (Immigrant Song)
      there's a feeling I get when I look to the west, and my spirit is crying for leaving (Stairway to Heaven)
  • April 21, 2015
    DAN004
    Bump?
  • April 21, 2015
    Chabal2
    • Inverted in Lord Of The Rings, where Mordor is located to the east of Middle-Earth. Although in the end, Frodo and the elves set sail towards the west.
    • Warcraft III: The previous two games took place on the eastern continent of Azeroth, the third game starts with the orcs heading west to the unexplored continent of Kalimdor.

  • April 24, 2015
    Tallens
    This came to my attention when I started a YKTTW called Refuge in the West. So now there seems to be some question as to what to do with either of these. From what I can tell there are generally two types of journeys west, the quest kind, where you go for a specific reason then come back, and the immigration where they stay there, which is more or less the one I have. The question is, do we need both of them, or can we actually split them along those lines?
  • May 1, 2015
    Tallens
    Anyone? If not, I'll take it over and start doing that, since that's what makes the most sense to me.
  • August 23, 2015
    AgProv
    AAARGH - ignore this, senility setting in, just realised I added it some months ago.

    MUSIC:

    Led Zeppelin, The Immigrant Song

    On we sweep! With flashing oar! We're going to go and seize that western shore!

    you could try The Pogues, Thousands Are Sailing, about Irish emigration "across that Western ocean"
  • August 23, 2015
    lakingsif
    How the Wicked Witch of the West became "of the West" from Wicked's Defying Gravity: "So if you care to find me, look to the Western sky!" Which Elphaba sings as she plans to start again.
  • December 27, 2015
    lakingsif
    bump?
  • December 27, 2015
    crazysamaritan
    Seems unclaimed
  • December 27, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Anime And Manga
    • While defending his village in Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke, The Hero Ashitaka's arm becomes infected by an angry forest god. The Cool Old Lady who heads the village sadly expels Ashitaka, advising him to journey west to the great old forests, there perhaps to plead for forgiveness from the other forest gods.
  • December 27, 2015
    lakingsif
    I'll add the examples then — I also think the best names are Westward Journey and Go West Young Man (temporarily changed because of No New Stock Phrases)
  • December 27, 2015
    DAN004
  • October 2, 2016
    AnotherGuy
    Gangs Of New York: Jenny talks of her desire to leave New York for San Francisco to start a new life. At the end of the film, she and Amsterdam do just that.
  • October 2, 2016
    BKelly95
    Film
    • The Gumball Rally, The Cannonball Run, and Speed Zone all feature an illegal road race from the east coast to Los Angeles. Inverted by Cannonball and Cannonball Run 2 which feature an illegal road race from Los Angeles to the east coast.
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