Question: Discuss the role of contrasting settings in one or more stories you have studied
The Australian way of life has long been approbated for its carefree, stoic, and enduring nature. Yet this postcard-friendly façade is not without its incongruities. The rigidity of societal expectations prevalent in the urban environment can be damaging and at worst alienating in the challenges it poses for many Australians. The Turning by Tim Winton powerfully conveys the struggles of the “Aussie Battler” in the face of these expectations whilst reinforcing the power of the individual to escape the bleak urban reality of urban life for the consolation provided by the natural Australian landscape. Through the use of contrasting setting, and specifically juxtaposition of romantic and realist elements, ‘Aquifer’ and ‘Abbreviation’ can be seen to appeal to and reinforce our sense of Australian identity. This is achieved through the contrast between bleak, rudimentary descriptions of nature which effectively foreground a romantic perspective of nature as sublime and providing solace to the desolate.
In ‘Aquifer’, the clever marriage of realist and romantic conventions to construct settings – the urban and the rural – can be seen to reinforce the romantic perspective of nature as being sublime and powerful, with a specific focus and appeal to Australia and Australian values. “Lines” are a key element in these binary descriptions of nature; it can be seen to highlight the contrast between the bleak rigidity of the ever-growing move to the urban, and the sublime freedom offered by nature. The suburb that the narrator grew up in is described as a “grid” and a “battlers’ block”, and the city as a place that travelled “inexorably in straight lines”. “grid” and “block” both connote a sense of rigidity and clearly drawn lines – almost a feeling of being trapped. The “battlers’ block” can be seen to appeal to the Australian value of stoicism and endurance which render the description aesthetically relatable to many Australian readers. It also conveys the struggle of working-class Australian people with “battler” being linked to the history of the ANZACs and the ANZAC legend, as well as generally connoting some sort of challenge. The city travelling “inexorably” adds a negative, unhumanitarian tone and association to the city.
Going against the grin of realist elements in the text, is the contrasting portrayal of the rural/natural environment which, as a binary opposition to the urban, is described as having “no straight lines” – perhaps alluding to the lack of societal expectations and rigidity in the natural environment, as well as conveying the awe-inspiring, undefinable nature of the landscape. The surrealist diction used to describe elements of nature is also important. The narrator mentions the “ochre sheen” of the lake and ducks as “skating”. This lexical choice in using “sheen” connotes purity, beauty, and a certain mysticism, which is further reinforced by...