Literature Review of the Novel “Illusions” by Richard Bach

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“All the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.” This quote illustrates the powerful message in the opening scene of the book, where Richard, the protagonist, seeks meaning in life. While flying his 1928 Fleet over Ferris, Illinois, Richard notices another biplane parked in a field and decides to land for conversation due to understanding the solitude of flying. Little does he know that the pilot of the 1928 Travel Air 4000 is referred to as the “Mechanical Messiah.” Thus begins Richard’s self-drawn journey.

After landing, Richard meets his guide on the journey, Dan Shimoda, who is no ordinary man but the “Messiah.” Their connection is immediate as if they were meant to fly together, even though Richard’s landing was not forced. When asked if he believed he would be led to a teacher who could help him, Richard responded positively, acknowledging that if the teacher wasn’t him, then someone else would guide him. However, in reality, Richard had led himself to this remarkable teacher who happened to be Dan Shimoda. This was because teaching involves reminding others that they possess the knowledge deep within themselves – precisely what Dan was doing by exposing Richard to the everyday “illusions”.

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A customer arrives with his granddaughter while Richard is having a conversation. Since Dan is on lunch, Richard takes the old man for a ten minute flight for three dollars. When Richard lands, Dan and the little girl who is afraid of heights join them in the plane. After landing, the little girl excitedly jumps out of the plane and expresses her enjoyment of the flight. This is where Richard witnesses his first miracle, or illusion, as some may say. However, this is just the beginning of a challenging day for Richard. After the first flight, he has forty-nine more flights. It turns out to be the best day of his life because he attracts these circumstances to himself. During his sleep that night, Richard has a dream that explains who Don is. Despite learning about Don through the dream, there are still many unanswered questions for Richard.

After Richard discussed the dream with Dan, he became even more perplexed than before. He couldn’t understand why the “Messiah” would choose to quit such a demanding job. Dan’s explanation was straightforward – it was like attending auto races to witness crashes, people sought Don for miracles rather than listening to his teachings. Don simply wished that people would heed his words, a wish Richard reluctantly fulfilled. Soon after revealing his retirement, Don faced another crucial question that would profoundly impact Richard’s journey: “Where did you learn all this, Don?” The answer was Richard’s new life guide – the “Messiah’s Handbook”. Whenever Richard faced confusion, he learned that he could consult the handbook for solutions, by randomly opening it to any page.

The following Saturday, Richard decided to impress others by landing his Fleet on a small farm, a feat that typically would have been impossible for Don and his larger Travel Air plane to accomplish. Surprisingly, Don managed to keep his plane airborne at 30 m.p.h. and land in a shorter distance than Richard. This greatly frightened Richard, causing him to question Don’s landing technique. Eventually, Don explained to Richard what he needed to hear – that everything is merely an illusion. However, later in the day, one of Don’s “illusions” frightened Richard so much that he abruptly left without saying goodbye. This specific illusion occurred when Don miraculously healed a crippled man, enabling him to fly alongside Don. This act attracted unwanted attention from crowds, something that Don despised, and consequently strained his friendship with Richard.

A few nights later, Richard attempted to replicate Don’s feat of making a wrench float in the air. But he couldn’t achieve the same result and felt disheartened before going to sleep. The next morning, Richard woke up to feel the touch of the floating wrench brushing against the back of his head. This bewildering phenomenon left him confounded. However, his amazement grew when Don himself appeared in the sky. Despite being thousands of miles away, Don had somehow located Richard. Don explained that the floating wrench was a creation of Richard’s dream. This revelation came after Don woke up to incredibly loud music at six in the morning, which was generated by Richard’s dream. Don clarified that initially these illusions can only materialize within dreams due to limited knowledge. So whether it is in dreams or reality, Richard has control over his own illusions.

The text describes an instance when Don walked on water, which helped Richard understand that he could also control his own illusions. Both Don and Richard were able to walk on water and swim through land, creating their own illusions. Despite Richard’s natural ability to create illusions, he struggled to comprehend the concept of walking through a wall. However, this lack of understanding proved beneficial as it led to the explanation for creating illusions. Don angrily responded to accusations of not belonging to the world by informing Richard that there are 4 billion people on earth, each with their own world. After consulting the handbook for guidance, Richard eventually grasped the reality of fiction.

Later in the novel, Don’s outlook on life angered people for the first time when he shared it on a radio show. The residents of Hayward were furious with his carefree way of life because they believed in responsibility, while Don only believed in being responsible for oneself. The next morning, Don thanked Richard for teaching him an important lesson – that his happiness should not rely on others, but solely on himself. Unfortunately, tragedy struck shortly after when Don was shot and killed. His death after finding enlightenment validates the quote, “Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” Donald’s teachings and his death eventually led Richard to become his own “Messiah”, despite having doubts along the way. Through his actions, Richard demonstrates that “Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.”

Illusions by Richard Bach is a book published by Dell Publishing in 1977.

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Literature Review of the Novel “Illusions” by Richard Bach. (2018, Sep 08). Retrieved from

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