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Stolen - Jane Harrison

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Introduction

The play 'Stolen,' written by Jane Harrison exposes the social injustice of Australian society during the Stolen Generation through the perspective of the Stolen Children. Harrison shows the psychological repercussions of the separation of mother and child through five characters whose situations vary superficially but are linked by a unanimous loss of culture and identity. Each character informs the audience of a different facet of the hardships faced by their forcible removal from Aboriginal society and through these characters Harrison shows the devastating affect that the removal of culture and heritage had on the Stolen Children. The format of the play allows Harrison to convey emotion to the audience creating an empathetic environment, largely through the sexually abused character Ruby. Harrison also employs the use of ambiguity in her language, encouraging the audience to arrive at their own conclusions. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were forcibly removed from their families by Government Policy between 1909 and 1969.This removal policy was enforced and maintained by the Aborigines Protection Board (APB) which had the power to remove Aboriginal children without either parental consent or a court order. By the 1950s, the Australian Government was attempting to 'breed out' Aboriginality by forcing them to assimilate into Western society. ...read more.

Middle

The intense joy that this child's birth gives her helps her overcome the hardships of being a stolen child herself. The play opens with scenes largely featuring female characters, Ruby and Shirley, and situations that draw attention to their helplessness. Childbirth is an extremely defenceless time for a woman at which their mind is vulnerable due to the overwhelming love for their child - 'babies are so helpless ... you hold a new baby again ... and it's you that feels vulnerable' (page 2). Harrison exploits the connotations associated with females and children to emotionally involve the audience creating an empathetic environment. Anne is the character that exemplifies everything that, from the white perspective, the Australian Government strived to accomplish. She was adopted out into a white family and as a teenager 'had no desire to find her real family.' (Characters NP). Anne had the same institution bed as the other four characters, none of which were adopted out successfully, only with different covers. This epitomises the parallels between the five characters because although their situations differ superficially, all have suffered from their forcible removal. The negative repercussions of the separation of mother and child cannot be escaped... ...read more.

Conclusion

Ruby becomes increasingly isolated from the other children after her abuse began - 'the children - except for Ruby - start to dance' (Page 18). Ruby's life is ruled by white Australians who hold absolute power of every aspect of her life and are named only 'Authority Figure' (Page 24). There is no name given to this character so that the audience can maintain an emotional distance. Jane Harrison uses the play 'Stolen' to convey the flaws of Australian society during the era of the Stolen Generation which stretched from 1909 until 1969. The abuse of the power held by the Australian Government is used to evoke sympathy for the marginalised Aboriginal characters and to accentuate their vulnerability. The play opens with scenes using connotations associated with women and children to show the detrimental affect that the Government Policy had on the characters. Each character represents a common outcome of the forced removal from their family, yet although their situations vary superficially there are several parallels such as the uniform loss of culture and identity. Anne is what the Government would believe is a successful removal. Harrison used this story to leave the audience with no doubt that the forced removal of an Aboriginal child from its biological parents and culture creates psychological trauma for all parties involved. ...read more.

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