Book Review of "Walkabout" by James Vance Marshall

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Review on Walkabouts by James Vance Marshall

‘Walkabout’ tells us the story of 2 American children, Mary and Peter, who are stranded in the Australian outback after a plane crash. With no knowledge of how to find food in the desert, until they meet a seventeen-year-old boy. He is on his walkabout, the six month journey into the desert.

‘Walkabout’ is a story of contrasts – the contrasts between the 3 children’s experience of life; the contrast between the natural world and the urban world.  There is a contrast between Peter’s acceptance of the bush boy as a friend and a leader of Mary’s fears. Mary is a teenager but she is self consciousness of the nakedness of boys. Soon after, she comes to see the bush boy’s friendliness. When Peter makes friends with the bush boy and asks questions, Mary feels angrier as she feels that she is no longer in charge. The Aboriginal boy has been brought up in the bush. He is in harmony with nature and is able to survive in harsh conditions. The Aboriginal’s journey is a ritual journey in which he will pass from childhood to manhood. At the end, he stops caring for himself, means that for him the walkabout ends in death.

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The changing relationships between the three children as they make their way through the desert form the basis of the story. The clash of cultures between the modern way of life and the Aboriginal way of life is beautifully portrayed in the book, without the author taking sides.  An inevitable clash of cultures causes misunderstanding between them and ultimately leads to tragedy. Mary is ill and at ease with the boy, so it is up to her younger brother, Peter, to try to bridge the gap between the two cultures. He does it very well. In a few days, ...

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