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Remembering Babylon - Significance of Preforatory Quotes, Gemmy is Both Symbol and Character, Profile of Two Characters, Significance of Mr. Frazer's Notebook, Language is a Recurring Motif, Symbolism, Literary Techniques to Convey Values and Themes, Malo

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Year 12 Literature Remembering Babylon By Natalie Hind 1. Significance of the two prefatory quotes: Malouf's choice in prefatory quotes at the beginning of Remembering Babylon are significant in revealing the way in which he wishes to establish the tone of the novel and allow for the reader to reach a place of greater psychological understanding so that they are able to make meaning of the text. In the first, "Whether this is Jerusalem or Babylon we know not", taken from a poem by William Blake, Malouf is putting to the reader the question of whether Gemmy has reached a place where he can find redemption (Jerusalem) or entered a world of brutality and cruelty (Babylon). By putting forward this question, Malouf is inducing the readers to begin a more emotionally and ethically deep state while reading the novel, so that the ideas he is presenting are better understood and so that Malouf is able to take his readers to a more spiritually revealing level of consciousness. In Remembering Babylon Gemmy represents the unknown when he is firstly found by the Aboriginals, "What was it? A...creature of a kind they had never seen before...? A spirit...?", and then again when he crosses the fence, the physical division between the Settler's and the Indigenous people, "...a human that...had been changed into a bird....and now, neither one thing nor the other was hopping and flapping towards them out of a world over there...". Readers can see that in both cases, Gemmy is a source of mystery and confusion; however it is the Aboriginal people who accept Gemmy and are willing to teach Gemmy their way of life, in contrast to his harsh and wary toleration by those in white society. This society is representative of Blake's 'Babylon', a place of discord, confusion, enslavement and despair, whereas the Aboriginal tribe who takes Gemmy in holds a very distinct sense of tolerance, peace and love (Jerusalem). ...read more.


In the text there are several different examples of written communication, the most prominent of which are Gemmy's life story and Mr. Frazer's letter to the Governor. These examples are used by Malouf as a warning that the written word should not be considered as reliable or accurate as other forms of communication. In the case of Gemmy's life story, George Abbot alters Gemmy's words as he is writing them down, "...he had introduced into what he had set down a phrase or two of his own...this scrap of mistruth", signifying to the audience that just because a piece of 'history' is written down does not necessarily mean that it is the truth, and that perspective and translation may also have an effect on the final product. Mr. Frazer's letter to the Governor was in relation to his ideas of how the settler's should work to adapt to the land instead of imposing themselves on it, however these ideas are completely misunderstood by the Governor and the Premier, who end up offering Gemmy a job in response, "Had he made himself so unclear?" Readers are able to understand that that the written language is discouraged by Malouf as a vehicle for miscommunication, shown through Abbot falsifying Gemmy's story and the misunderstanding with relation to Mr. Frazer's letter. The manipulation of Gemmy's story fits the Eurocentric agenda as it parallels the theft by the settlers of Aboriginal land in the novel. Malouf suggests that the power of language lies in its ability to determine how we make meaning from what we see and experience, that we are defined by it and will be rejected from any society that does not support and accept that language. This is true for Gemmy, as he is never fully accepted by the settlers because of his inability to speak the language. Through this, Malouf suggests that language is culturally restrictive and that it is so powerful that it has the ability to alienate those who cannot or will not adopt the language. ...read more.


In this way, Malouf is showing the audience the effect that a different upbringing can have on our perception of the world around us. 9. Malouf's sympathies Malouf conveys sympathy towards both the Aboriginals and the Settler's throughout Remembering Babylon. It is obvious that his favour lies with the Indigenous people, as can be seen in chapter two, where Malouf reveals the good nature of the Aboriginals through their partial acceptance of Gemmy after he is washed up on the shore. The tribe who took him in treated Gemmy more like a human being than any of the settlers did throughout the entirety of the novel. However, it can also be seen that Malouf has sympathy for the settlers as well, and this is shown through the characterisation of the McIvors. This is done as, if Malouf were to generalise all of the settlers and to provide the reader with evidence only to support their negative nature, audiences would assume that the settlers were 'evil' and incapable of human emotions such as kindness and compassion. However, Malouf realises that the settlers are human beings with real emotions and that, while they have been wildly misled by their forefathers about their superiority over other cultures, are not truly evil. Obviously, the vast majority of the settlers stick to their stubborn refusal to accept Gemmy and all that he represents, which is done sometimes out of fear, and sometimes out of malice and contempt, however, some, such as the McIvors and Mrs. Hutchence, who despite being trapped in a society with very prominent Eurocentric views, are able to grow and rise above this, though they still have their reservations. If Malouf did not do this and instead was to generalise all the settlers, presenting them to the reader as the 'evil' of the story to be hated without question or complaint, he would in essence be conveying the same attitude that the settlers have towards the Aboriginals, by assuming that they are all to be hated and feared, and that there could not possibly be any remnants of goodness in them. ...read more.

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