Judgment and perception begins at a young age, and continues throughout life. How a person views something affects their beliefs about life and how to live it; one impression can really change a person’s attitude. Through these beliefs and impressions a person uses symbols to express their feelings and emotions that some people try to use to void out their experiences. Throughout her memoir, Jesus Land, Julia Scheeres uses symbols to identify her process of escape from her emotions and experiences; symbols such as, alcohol, music, and hope to signify her determination of breaking free from her problems and running away from life. Julia’s life has been rough and through it she has found ways to escape her pain and become numb to her surroundings. At the start of the book Julia is found drinking her “comfort” the first day of her new school. She finds herself drinking to numb the transitions of a new school, new friends and a new Julia. “I’ve decided to make a party impression at Harrison. Party hardy…The new Julia will throw back her head and laugh as if she didn’t have a care in the world. And this laughter and happiness will make her attractive to people and win her admiration and friends.” (Scheeres 42)
As Julia said she was using her “comfort” to change who she truly was and make it seem as if she didn’t have a care in the world. When she truly did, she cared about making friends, finding a group and being accepted. Julia’s life has taken another turn she’s gone from being a Juvenile delinquent to a girl in reform school half way around the world. Even in a caged world of misery Julia finds her and her brother trying to escape a life of pain. In this small village David who once was opposed to alcohol finds himself enjoying “coconut juice” every chance he gets. “Hey there’s booze in this!” …. ‘Must be my bad Spanish. I’ll send them back.’ ‘Are you nuts?’ I press my glass against my ‘I Jesus’ T-shirt protectively, and David cracks up. ‘I guess it’s not our fault the waitress brought us the wrong drinks,’ David says grinning.” (Scheeres 290) Someone who always thought drinking was terrible results to it in a time of freedom to relieve himself of reform school pain. Using their time meant to help others to help themselves.
Within the memoir Julia expresses her need to withdraw from a world of hate and pain. She expresses this through her love for music, just another symbol of her process of escape. “Shrieks of pain. I turn off my bed stand light and press the radio to my ear under the pillow, filling my head with ‘Sweet Dreams’ by The Eurythmics.” Even if Julia is not the person going through the pain she uses her music to relieve herself of hearing the pain. Julia chooses to not listen to the yelps of pain even if it is a person she deeply hates and wishes would have never returned. Continuing through her story, Julia finally gives in to her boyfriend Scott, and gives up her virginity. As she finds music as another way to escape or leave something behind this time it is the shame behind her actions and concentration on what she hears. She illustrates this by writing, “He grins and puts his hands behind his head, back to his cocky old self. He’s dumped my stuffed animals on the floor and stuck a tape into my cassette player; The Police’s ‘King of Pain’ drifts across the room” (Scheeres 131).
By having the music playing in the background, Julia is able to go through with losing her virginity. She continues to wrap herself in the music as her virginity travels into nonexistence, “The Police are singing ‘O my God’ on the tape player and Scott’s eyes are closed as he moves inside me and the light slanting through the Venetian blinds is muffled, as if a cloud had slid across the sun” (Scheeres 132). By focusing on the music she can escape. She can escape from the pains of her numbness and unfeeling to sexual actions. In order for Julia to keep engaging in sexual activity with Scott, she finds it necessary to listen to music while in the act to drown out the pain of her actions. “We always listen to The Police when we do it, and if the tape ends, Scott pauses to flip it over, and afterward he drums his fingers on my back to the music as we fade into sleep” (Scheeres 147). Julia continues her need to hear music as she has sexual intercourse, which is viewed as an unholy act by her parents, demonstrates her desire to escape her surroundings and drift away into the dreamy nature of the song lyrics.