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People Who Don't Fit The Norm

1961 words - 8 pages



This investigation examines the way different texts explore the theme of people who don't `fit the norm'. The texts that I have chosen were written between 19th-21st centuries, giving a good range of perspectives over different time frames. These texts include `The Piano' by Jane Campion, `In my father's Den' by Maurice Gee, and Shakespeare's `Othello'. This report discusses some common themes that I discovered amongst these texts, I outline how these texts represent a common idea that literature both New Zealand and European, is trying to portray society's views on people and what is considered `normal'.

How influential are main character's personas in portraying people who don't `fit the norm'?

In one of the opening scenes in the film `The Piano', the main character Ada's appearance immediately makes her seem un-normal to her new husband Stewart. He states "You're small. I never thought you'd be small" and thinks she is therefore "stunted", due to her abnormally small build compared the sturdy natives of NZ. Stewart's reaction personifies the expectations in NZ for women to be strong and sturdy to help with heavy chores and accompany the man. She also dresses in black clothes, accentuating her paleness, which contrasts greatly with the brown skins of the natives. Because of the apparent contrast in skin tones, the Maori respond by assuming she is "an angel", as they are not familiar with such stark appearances and immediately categorize her as heavenly and un-human.

This judgment on appearance also affects the main character in the play `Othello', where Othello "the moor" is seen as unusual for being a black man in the European cultured city of Venice. The colour of his skin is even more out of place in his high ranking position in the army. It seems that the only reason characters in this play show him respect, is because he is very good at his job and the country need him to lead their wars. His blackness is otherwise paralleled with the devil. Another character Iago even questions what "delight" his wife would have "to look upon the devil." This shows the Venetian confusion as to why a pretty, white girl would bother looking at a black (therefore ugly and evil) man.

I have discovered that these two texts embody the attitude of cultures mixing and the labels that are placed on people whose skin tones contrast with those around them. Both Ada and Othello are foreigners to the country their texts are based in, and are labelled with rather spiritual inhuman terms such as "an angel" and "the devil." These inhuman extremes portray the idea of how the main characters appearance have influenced others to view them as anomalous, therefore must be slightly inhuman!

In `In my father's Den' The main character Paul Prior is not judged on physical appearance, but what he appears to do with his time. He hides in his `den' reading books and therefore, lives purely...

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