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1. The infant Voyager has grown into a teenage boy, who confidently steers the golden boat towards his dreams, the castles in the sky.
2. Cole's critics found the change in the direction of the river unsettling, but the artist argued that the four paintings would otherwise be "monotonous," and noted that "there are many windings in the stream of life." Cole's reorientation of the river also makes for a more satisfying visual arrangement of the pictures.
3. Cole often referred to youthful dreams and aspirations as "castles in the clouds."
4. The hourglass has lost sand, indicating the passage of time.
5. The guardian angel has exited the boat, stands on the riverbank, and gestures towards the Voyager with a troubled look.
6. Lush varieties of vegetation identify the season as summer, while the bright sunlight confirms the time of day as noon.
7. The river suddenly passes a rocky ravine and picks up speed, foreshadowing the turbulence of Manhood.