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"Choose three texts and discuss their representations of family. Is family a repressive force; is it an empowering one? How do questions of family relate to issues like class, race and gender?"

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"Choose three texts and discuss their representations of family. Is family a repressive force; is it an empowering one? How do questions of family relate to issues like class, race and gender?" The family is commonly known as a place of socialisation. It serves as a basis in which children acquire their morals and believes, that enhance their development and social behavior. Throughout history, the image on the family has changed from a household of many relations to a nuclear family: 2 parents and 2.4 children. The influence for this change to the nuclear family being the model of all families has been due to changes in history itself, television and literature. This essay will address three pieces of literature, each novel being different than the first and their portrayals of family, class, race and gender. Thea Astley's novel It's Raining in Mango (1987) is a recovery of the past prompted by the search for one family's future. It reflects upon the history of the Laffey family alongside the history of an Aboriginal family. Together these histories intertwine as a part of Queensland's own history. The family spans from the early nineteenth century to the twentieth century, in which they each experience a sense of loss and aimlessness. Each of them was and is searching for something, yet they never know what they are searching for. It is a story of generational conflict that ends as a shared past between the family members. The Laffey family begins with Cornelius, an Irish-born journalist who moves his family from the laid-back lifestyle of Sydney to the historical revulsion in Northern Queensland. ...read more.


But they got lost along the way...but nothing like a few hidings - from the man sposed to be part of the dream - to reduce life and its dreams to thoughts that grow to disbelief" (p.8) Day after day, she lets herself be on the receiving end of Jake's abuse, knowing that if she tries to stand up for herself, it will only result in another black eye. Beth is so preoccupied with her anger, over allowing herself to be weak to the brunt of Jake and trying to not subject herself to it that she fails to reach out to her children. Especially Grace: "Grace, not giving one thing of what she might be thinking, and Beth getting more and more pissed off with this quiet...attitude of her daughter's, it'd gone on too damn long...the day. Can't spoil the day." (p.101) It is Grace's suicide and rape that forces Beth to open her eyes to the dismal lifestyle she has been living, which is so far from her warrior roots. Beth realises the importance of her warrior past at the funeral of her daughter as she watches the Maori elders sing the death lament; the waiata tangi: "They're in raptures. Half ofem with their eyes closed. In joy, pure joy at being Maori. Oh aren't (they) we a together race when (they) we're like this?" (p.127). By watching this Beth begins to find strength in a sense of community and sees the Maori culture in a positive light. No longer does she see the destruction of the Maori culture, she now sees the beauty and intensity of it: "Stomach on fire with jolts of electric excitement...her mind no longer able to think - not in words. ...read more.


She does not try to intervene until Elaine is nearly killed in the ravine, this is contrasted with Mrs. Smeath who knows very well of what is going on and merely encourages it as she sees it as "god's punishment" (p.179). Mrs. Risley's lack of concern for her daughter's well-being tarnishes Elaine's view of her and she is unable to forgive her for it. Instead, Elaine tries to make up for her mother's intolerance when she has her own daughters: "I felt I had to protect them from certain things about myself." (p.114). She examines their fingers and feet for signs of flaying and scrutinises their friends. Just before she dies, Mrs. Risley admits her powerlessness towards Elaine's victimisation: "I didn't know what to do." (p.395) yet Elaine does not acknowledge this as she is blocking out the memories of her past: "What she wants from me is forgiveness, but for what?" (p.395) It isn't until well after her mother's death that Elaine is able acknowledge this: "If it were happening now to a child of my own, I would know what to do. But then? There were fewer choices. And a great deal less said." (p.150) and finally forgive her mother. The novel presents family as a muted and shadowy part of Elaine's life. In a way, their liberal and impassive ways have been passed onto their daughter when she reflects on them later in life. In her eyes, they remain forever to be "a far away picture with a frame of blackness." (p.68). The death of her brother and later her parents leaves Elaine expressing no grief for them. And when Elaine reflects upon her family, it is merely in a flat and unemotional manner: "Such are my pictures of the dead." (p.26). Word count - 2846 Stephanie Dealey 3634877 1 ...read more.

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