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Walkabout is a novel by James Vance Marshall. It follows the life of two white American children and their survival in the Australian outback. It shows how two different cultures come together and how their beliefs change.

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Introduction

Walkabout Walkabout is a novel by James Vance Marshall. It follows the life of two white American children and their survival in the Australian outback. It shows how two different cultures come together and how their beliefs change. The American children, Mary and Peter, have grown up around formal education and wealth, with luxuries at the tip of their fingers. Living in a technologically advanced country they have had many advantages. These however, mean nothing on the middle of the Australian outback. They have been brought up to believe black people inferior to themselves. So when they find themselves alone in the Australian outback with not much to eat, they find themselves ill equipped. Whereas the aborigine boy has grown up in a native environment with no formal education. His life is simple with no worries, there is only one major worry that his people think about and that is death. In his culture they believe that when a boy comes of age they must go on a mission called walkabout. A six mouth walk across the Australian outback, where they have to care for themselves and hunt for their food. He had never seen white people because the white people lived in urban countries and towns and not the outback. ...read more.

Middle

She thinks of him as a disgusting boy who lacks civilised manners. This is made worse by the fact that he is black and, in her eyes, inferior 'The idea of being manhandled by a naked black boy appalled her.' Unfortunately for Mary in order to survive they are reliant on his help for he is familiar with the environment. Peter shows a higher level of understanding and a greater willingness to befriend the aborigine boy; 'That's it, darkie. You've got it. Arkoolooya. That's the stuff we want. And food too. You sabby food? Foo-ood foo-ood.' Her lack of comparison and understanding eventually have tragic consequences. Mary thinks that she has had a stroke of genius! She will clothe him just like a missionary. She feels kind and charitable but doesn't understand how misguided she is; 'Missionaries, she knew, were people who put black boys into trousers.' He thinks that Mary has seen the spirit of death in his eyes, so feels he is doomed to die. Whilst the western world has scientific explanations for things his culture believes in the power of the spirit world. If death has come to claim him there is nothing he can do. 'For the lubra had looked into his eyes and seen the spirit of death.' ...read more.

Conclusion

Yet with quiet determination he helps the naive children and equips them with the skills to survive. 'When he died, they would die too. That was certain, for they were such helpless creatures. So there'd be not one victim for the spirit of death but three. Unless he could somehow save them?' The moment of death is dealt with quietly and compassionately. 'He died in the false dawn: peacefully and without struggle: in the hour when the desert is specially still and light is specially clear.' In his moment of death, and because of it, the two cultures are finally united and Mary's inbuilt prejudices are dispelled. 'But in the same moment that she said it, suddenly and unexpectedly, she believed it. More than believed it. Knew it. Knew that heaven, like earth was one.' What is particularly poignant is that in his moment of death he has the generosity of spirit to forgive Mary 'it was the smile that broke Mary's heart.' Mary completes her own Walkabout for after his death she accepts the environment and even embraces it. 'And as the piccaninny cemented friendship between white girl and black, so the warrigal - the dingo pup - served as a link between man and boy.' James Vance Marshall has effectively sent a message which is still relevant today. Everyone is not the same - but we are all equally valuable and are adapted to suit our own environment. ...read more.

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