A Wild Goose Chase

Meanings of “A Wild Goose Chase”

The phrase “a wild goose chase” means to pursue something that is unattainable or pointless. In other words, the phrase is used to warn people not to go after something that does not align with an achievable goal.

Origin of “A Wild Goose Chase”

The phrase “a wild goose chase” is said to have its first recorded citation in William Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, published in 1592:

Romeo: Switch and spurs, switch and spurs; or I’ll cry a match.
Mercutio: Nay, if thy wits run the wild-goose chase, I have done, for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five.”

Since then, the phrase has been used in various books and films conveying different scenarios with similar meanings.

Examples from Literature

Example #1

A Wild Goose Chase by Ali Rahimi

“Is life a wild goose chase?
Is it a sick dream? A fantasy? Or just a deceptive fallacy?
Could be an error, a bizarre accidental act of lunacy?
A senseless explosion of foolishness and idiocy?
Or a holy orchestrated creation with phenomenal accuracy?
Sinless flawless birth of man, perfect example of wisdom, insight and rationality,
Paragon of kindness and love, epitome of tenderness and sympathy,
Pivot of universe, core of creation, heart of cosmos in ability,
Fire, water, earth, and air erupting to the surface,
Slapping us harsh on the face,
Is it a sad illusion, a mirage or a fearsome menace?”

In this stanza, the poet compares life with a wild goose chase. In fact, he tries to understand what life is because it never runs at a smooth pace. At times, it seems a fantasy, a senseless of foolishness, and a sick dream, whereas sometimes it shows its kind and loveable side to the speaker. Therefore, the speaker seems stuck between uncertainties and positive aspects of life. The problems, tensions, and pain in the world never let him trust the bright and positive shades of life. The phrase has been used in this poem as an extended metaphor to show that finding satisfaction and happiness in the world is like a wild goose chase.

Example #2

This Life’s a Varied Race, Boy by John James Robert

“This life’s a varied race boy!
This life’s a varied race
O’er hill and dale,
And flowery vale;
And oft a Wild Goose chase, boy!
And oft a wild goose chase:
For naught at all,
Except a fall
Within some miry place, boy!
Within some miry place,
We ever get;
Where, solid and wet,
None over lament our case, boy!
None over lament our case.”

In these lines, the poet states that life is a race and as participants, we have to pass through different paths; we see hills as well the flowery valleys. However, when we confront challenges, it feels we are running after nothing, but one should not lose hope even in extreme pessimism. The phrase shows good use of repetition, a rhetorical device, in which a word or phrase is repeated for impacts.

Example #3

The American Notebooks by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1851)

“Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us to a wild-goose chase and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.”

This excerpt contains the author’s famous journals he had documented before his departure to England. Expressing his views about the joys of life, he states that happiness comes incidentally in life but we make it the subject of our life. This choice leads us to the verge of disappointment. To avoid the mess, one should have different interests in life to find ways to happiness without putting in a lot of effort. The phrase has been shown used with actual meaning, though, with a hyphen in the first two words.

Example #4

Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God by Mark Batterson

The book provides us a better framework for living by the spirits. The book offers a vivid description of the Holy Spirit “A Geadh-Glas, or ‘the Wild Goose’ and describes the adventures that the protagonist undertakes to prompt the Holy Spirit. Although the prompting of the Holy Spirit seems pointless in its initial stage, yet it leads him to the paths he has never imagined. The phrase has been used as an extended metaphor for self-discovery.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “A group of students went inside the dense forest to find the rare leopard. After spending five days on this crazy quest, they finally realized that they were on a wild goose chase.”

Example #2: “My mother was looking for the tools she needed to fix her glasses. As she searched through every corner, she ended up feeling she was on a wild goose chase.”

Example #3: “While working on a serious report, I realized that my laptop had developed a virus. So, I went online to find a solution to my problem. Unfortunately, after hours of search, I realized I was on a wild goose chase.”

Example #4: “The criminal escaped from the captivity on the way to the hospital. David, the inspector’s search, however, proved a wild goose chase, as the criminal had fled into the dense forest.”

Example #5: “Nicholas wondered if the scientist had intentionally sent him to find a web crawler in the forest, which to him, looked like a wild goose chase.”