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mes, Malouf's Sympathies

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Introduction

Year 12 Literature Remembering Babylon - David Malouf Research Assessment 1. Explain the significance of the two prefatory quotations used by Malouf. Remembering Babylon has two prefatory quotations. One, from The Four Zoas by William Blake, refers to Jerusalem and Babylon. And the other, from John Clare, comes from a time of trouble and darkness. Malouf's use of the two quotes is important in establishing the underlying message of the novel. In using the first quotation, Malouf questions the place that Gemmy has reached on the other side of the fence. Readers are inclined to question whether this "other side" is a place of redemption or a world of cruelty. When Gemmy is first found by the Aboriginals, he is a clear representation of the unknown. The Aboriginal women and children perceive Gemmy as an unfamiliar character; "What was it?". Gemmy again demonstrates unfamiliarity when he crosses the fence and is found by Lachlan and Janet. "And the thing... was not even... human". The Aboriginals took Gemmy in and taught him to live the same way as them. This was quite the opposite of his treatment by the majority of White Society. Historically, Babylon was seen as the city of enslavement and despair. In contrast to this, Jerusalem was the city of God and was viewed as a place of tolerance and peace. After reading the novel, readers understand that the perceived civility of White Society is false and that the Settlers actually contrast Blake's Jerusalem, representing a world of turmoil and brutality. Gemmy evidently finds his place of redemption in the Aboriginal society and considers the White Settlement to be of Blake's 'Babylonian' nature. The second quotation is a poem written by John Clare. Malouf uses this poem to foreshadow the main ideas of the novel. Clare's poem is a representation of a world of unrest. The poem begins in the same way as the novel, "strange shapes and void afflict the soul". ...read more.

Middle

Language is a recurring motif in Remembering Babylon. Malouf uses language to emphasize its with identity. Malouf suggests that people are defined by their language. For example, "wasn't it true that white men who stayed too long in China were inclined to develop, after a time, the slanty eyes and flat faces of your yellow man?" It is implied that after a while of having to adopt the language and culture of a Chinese man, you would become less White. Your "skin might be but not [your] features". A recurring question in the novel is whether you could lose it, "not just language, but it?" 'It' refers to the culture and identity of a person. Malouf shows that language is strongly connected this. He is saying that by losing language, as Gemmy did, you tend to lose your identity. This link is also shown through Gemmy and when he "first found words of English tongue". However, Gemmy cannot be fully accepted by the settlers because he is unable to speak their language fluently. Malouf is saying that to truly belong in a particular culture, language must also be embraced. Most language comes through writing, however Malouf proves that written language is merely a catalyst for miscommunication. This is seen in the way that George Abbott alters Gemmy's life story. It highlights the fact that, even though it is written down, it is likely to be false. Gemmy is unable to read and write and this inability leaves him powerless when his story is changed. He is forced to believe that what is written down is true. This suggests that Gemmy's lack of language is what allows his story, his identity, to be changed. Wordless, spiritual communication also allows readers to understand the relationship between language and identity in the novel. Wordless language is seen to strengthen identity. This is manifested through both Jock and Janet McIvor. ...read more.

Conclusion

Support your stance by direct reference to the novel. Do you think he has any sympathy for the dominant ideology of the people who has power when the novel was set? Malouf's sympathies mainly lie with the Aboriginals, however he also portrays sympathy towards some of the settlers in the novel. When readers are first introduced to the Aboriginals, we are, to a certain extent, in fear. This is because the narration takes us through the perspective of Lachlan Beattie, a largely influenced member of the European settlement. Despite this, the novel changes course as Malouf reveals to us the goodness of the Aboriginals. He evokes their positive nature through the way they unconditionally accept Gemmy when he is washed up on the shore. When the Aboriginals first find Gemmy, he is unfamiliar and they ask, "what was it?". Malouf puts emphasis on the fact that Gemmy is more accepted in a completely unknown culture than by the settlers. Malouf sympathises for the Aboriginals because, even though they are the more humane and loving, they are the ones that are feared and said to be living in a "blackness beyond black". Malouf also sympathises with the settlers and this is seen through the McIvors. It would be wrong to typify all the Settlers in a negative light because to do so would be the same as the way the settlers generalise against the indigenous people. The majority of White society believe they are superior to other races and refuse to accept Gemmy and the Aboriginals. However, it is also known that the McIvors and Mrs Hutchence are able to rise above the Eurocentric nature of the settlers. Readers are inclined to feel sympathy for these characters because they are of good nature but are trapped by the social implications of White society. They are forced to go against their neighbours, and although they grow closer as a family, they are outcasts to the rest of the settlement because of their compassion for Gemmy. ...read more.

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