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.
This is a preview of the whole essay
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, Peter and Mary learn some basic Aboriginal language and learn how to hunt for food. The boy interprets the fear he sees in Mary. Mary has seen the spirit of death in his eyes and that his death is, therefore about to happen. He catches Peter’s cold and causes him to become ill and die, leaving Mary and Peter once more alone. However, he has already taught the children the survival skills they need to live in the desert and he has pointed the way they need to go. They are able to continue on the journey and the story ends with them setting off back to their world.
I think the author wants us to think at ourselves and how we would react if we were one of the characters. ‘Walkabout’ is a well-written book, which is easy to read, with terrific descriptions of the fascinating Australian landscape and its animals. I think the most interesting topics in this book are the difference between the culture of the white society and the Aboriginals. They differ in their lifestyle and the Aboriginals can manage to survive in this harsh environment.
Another interesting aspect is that the bush boy interprets actions of the white children completely different then they would expect him to (e.g. the ritual dance).
‘Walkabout’ is a memorable book because it shows us how Mary and Peter survive in many different ways with the Aboriginal and they learn a new experience.