The change in representations of minorities in Australian Literature Australian literature consists of many representations of the ‘Australian way of life’ that are constructed by numerous national stereotypes. Various critics argue that the current literary representations of the average Australian do not embrace enough cultural diversity through the incorporation of indigenous people, females and ethnic communities.
The representations of Australian people have changed dramatically over a period of time. While the first Australian literary pieces consisted of only one specific brand of person, neglecting women and aborigines, during the nation’s development and the arrival of more ethnic people, there was a rise in the representations of these minority groups. Following this, in the late 20th century to current years, these minority groups have begun to express and represent themselves through writing.
Despite the most common representation of the Australian person not including these minorities, there has been a significant change in their representations through literature and the version that does not include them, is predominately used through non-literary works. The common representation of the Australian people is a tough Anglo-Saxon male who works in labour intensive jobs. This portrayal has been used heavily to identify Australians, particularly by the current media, to build on the Australian image.
The concept of this type of person representing the whole nation was formed from traditional texts in the 19th century, when the writers were almost entirely white European males and chose to write only of people like themselves. “When the ladies come to the shearing shed” and “Clancy from the overflow,” are examples of the types of literary pieces that were written in the 19th century, which focus on the white men of Australia who work in tough jobs in the outback. “When the ladies come to the shearing shed,” written by Henry Lawson in 1897 is about the reactions of Australian men when women are in their presence.
The poem composes the image of masculine men who work in a shearing shed, and represents their job as noble, as women come from the city to watch them. Women are represented as delicate objects of affection that hold little importance to the story. The only time in which the women are described doing or saying something is when they comment on the appearance of the animals, “and they gush and say in a girly way, that ‘the dear little lambs’ are ‘sweet. ’” This being the only thing that women say, illustrates that they did not hold any real significance to the story, and their opinions were completely left out.
The way in which the women are portrayed in the poem is not necessarily negative, but they are not particularly valued characters, and are seen as the ‘other’. This is due to the attempt of a white male providing his personal opinion on the way another type of person acts, which creates a distorted representation. The men and women in this text have an obvious separation between them, and it is express that they are on very different levels, which is not an accurate portrayal of real life. “Clancy of the overflow” was written in 1889 by one of Australia’s most famous poets, Banjo Paterson.
The story shares the same representation of the Australian male, who works with animals out in the “bush. ” In the poem Paterson attempts to personify the quintessential Australian, and who believes every man should be which is a strong worker who is in touch with life on the land. Through the eyes of an office worker the poem represents outback life as desired over city living and working, “I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall. Clancy, and his outback life is represented as desired by the city dweller, “And I somehow fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy, like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go. ”
The poem does not include aborigines, women or ethnic people, which by today’s standard is frowned upon but in the time of the poems creation was common in texts. These two, and many more texts from Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson reinforce the argument that the personification of the Australian person was most commonly used in traditional Australian literature, and the opinions of the minority groups are excluded.
Progressing from the prejudiced representation that they received from male writers, women have become just as equally common and successful as men in Australian literature. In today’s Australian society, women are in a better situation than indigenous and ethnic Australians in terms of equality, which makes their characterization in literary works more familiar. The liberation of women in Australian literature has given females the opportunity to write about and express themselves through their personal opinions, creating countless female Australian authors.
If I had a gun” is a poem written by Gig Ryan, that represents her confronting attitudes toward the men that surround her. The poem consists of Gig Ryan explaining the men that she would shoot because of their disrespectful attitude towards women. There is . She uses particular examples of the way men in society sexualize her and other women, “I’d shoot the man who whistled from his balcony. ” She even writes about the smallest occurrences that frustrate her, illustrating that she doesn’t accept any form of gender superiority, “I’d shoot the man last night who said smile honey.
A woman writing about the men that she would figuratively murder, shows the growth that Australian literature has endured. Many years prior, women were only rarely written about and their true feelings and perspectives were silenced. Now, they have the opportunity to voice their opinions, even in a confronting manner and still be embraced by the Australian public. Throughout the 20th century, women, aborigines and ethnic people began to be identified and represented more regularly, however still commonly through the perspective of Anglo-Saxon males.
Despite this improvement, the ‘others’ could not represent themselves, so someone else represented them. This obviously led to a one-sided representation, because no matter how sympathetic the author was, they were viewing things through their own perspective, which is particularly evident with the aboriginal representations in texts. The novel “Coonardo” written by Katherine Susannah Pritchard addresses the complex issues of ownership and the colonial enterprise that was present in its publication date of 1958.
It contains the flourishing inter-racial relationship of Hugh, a non-indigenous landowner and Coonardo, an indigenous woman as the solution to these difficult situations. This was an early time in Australia for a topic like this to become a successful novel, especially because the author held a non-biased perspective throughout the novel, which would have limited readers to those who did not have a strong opinion on these matters. David Malouf’s “Remembering Babylon” (1993) deals with the problem of how to represent difference and reversing the representations of the ‘other’.
The main character, Gemmy lived in an aboriginal community for 16 years and an eventual “rescue” of him by white settlers creates a “double consciousness” that does not allow for him to fully re-embrace his white culture that soon becomes the ‘other’. Malouf, despite his white heritage does achieve a very open-minded representation of the aboriginal people. He appears to show sympathy towards the indigenous community, which allows him to tell the story through their eyes, casting the white people and the things they did as bad.
The point of view throughout the novel is mainly of the tribe that Gemmy belonged to, instead of himself. The novel, while containing a great racial tolerance and acceptance towards the indigenous people, does however, still support the notion of the unstable relationship between non-indigenous and indigenous Australians. “Remembering Babylon” provides a more in depth representation from the point of view of the aboriginal people, whereas “Coonardo” represents both races equally from an outsider’s perspective.
Many ethnic immigrants have been left with the smallest amount of representations in Australian literature, due to the White Australia Policy lasting up until the mid 20th century, which has rendered their Australian legacy very young. This obviously has now left them struggling to be represented in key texts because of their short history. Ethnic groups who are represented in literary works that are accepted within the mainstream aren’t immensely common. However when these ethnic groups are personified, it creates a highly accurate representation of the average Australian communities.
Carlos Tsiolkas is a Greek-Australian author, who wrote “The slap,” a popular, contemporary piece of Australian literature that was turned into a television series. This novel naturally integrates white, Greek, Indian and indigenous Australians into a friendship community, illustrating the genuine multicultural society of Australia. Tsiolkas’s heritage assists him in providing an accurate representation of what it is like for these ethnic characters to live in Australia, because he has the ability to write from experience and represent himself.
The slap” does not have an obvious focus on the inter-racial relationships that it contains, but due to the variety of ethnicity that is incorporated into the characters, it is clear to see that the author made a conscious decision to include a range of cultural diversity in his novel. Ethnic immigrants who become successful authors usually write about their experiences in Australia, that become popular within the Anglo-Australian community, as their pieces offer a different view point, that challenges the way Australians view themselves. The ungrateful immigrant” is a poem by Yu Ouyang that is an example of an ethnic author challenging the common perception of the ‘Australian way of life’.
The poem is Ouyang’s personal view on Australia and its people, challenging the common belief that Australians are friendly and welcoming people, particularly to immigrants. He speaks about many elements of the country that he does not agree with or particularly like, and the negative way that the Australian people have responded to him. “You think that because I came to and live in Australia, I should be grateful for the rest of my life. He even says that his decision to migrate to Australia was an “irreversible mistake. ”
This poem, like “if I had a gun” speaks very negatively about certain groups of people and challenges many common ideologies that exist about the ’Australian way of life,’ however it is still recognized and appreciated as a passionate literary piece. It would be understandable for many Australians to get offended and disregard this text due to the challenging opinions that it contains, but the piece has been accepted into the community because it is seen as an Australian person giving his opinion on his country.
Also similar to “if I had a gun,” “The ungrateful immigrant” shows the progress in Australian literature and the different representations of the ‘Australian way of life’ that it now contains. It is evident that these literary works provide evidence that supports the argument that, despite the common stereotype of Australian people still being an Anglo-Saxon male, Australian literature does provide an immense variety of representations of women, indigenous Australians, and ethnic communities.
They also illustrate the progression of Australian literature, from when it contained an incredibly narrow group of representations, to now when it contains an abundance of different racial and gendered authors and characters that contribute to the production of literary pieces, and the representations of the Australians that they contain. It is important, when analyzing the national identity of Australian way of life to evaluate the state of its literature, and the representations that it contains and upholds.