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There Is No One Agreed Voice Through Which Australia Speaks About Australian Identity (Includes Critques Of Four Australian Texts)

2395 words - 10 pages

It is true that there is no one agreed voice through which Australia speaks about any topic. Australia is a country of multiple voices and has a pluralistic outlook, demonstrated by it's culture, population, political spectrum and community leaders. Australia's "richer tapestry of many identities" means that that a multitude of voices contribute to its national identity - a topic that has been vehemently debated for years, and will no doubt continue to be for years to come - as demonstrated by the texts An Open Swimmer by Tim Winton, "A Richer Tapestry of Many Identities" by David Williamson, Australia by AD Hope and In the Park by Gwen Harwood. As the "Australian identity" becomes increasingly hard to define in these complex, shifting times, many are coming to believe that perhaps there is no such thing.The issue of Australian identity is discussed in Tim Winton's award-winning, coming-of-age novel An Open Swimmer through the Australian voice of Jerra Nilsam. Set, for the most part, by the coast, Jerra and his best mate Sean find themselves growing apart, realizing they have different values and are pursuing different lifestyles. Jerra is from a white, working class family, and is being pressured to go to uni, settle down and find a career. As he remembers the negative aspects of his past and talks to the old man who lives on the beach, he comes to increasingly question these imposed values. Tim Winton has approached the issue of Australian identity through the lens of young man finding his way into the world, and by using an extended metaphor of the bush and the sea to describe Australians' relationship with the physical landscape. His view of Australia is very much tied up with it's natural environment.Some carefully selected motifs resonate throughout the novel, including the notion of diving into the wreck, which is established with a quote from Adrienne Rich's poem Diving into the Wreck."we are the half-destroyed instrumentsthat once held to a coursethe water-eaten logthe fouled compass"Some other underlying themes include the sense of anxiety regarding masculine identity, established in the prologue and resonating throughout the novel; and the final explanation of the novel's title, An Open Swimmer which makes new meaning out of much that has come before it. Jerra's interaction with the other male characters in the book, including Sean and the old man, display a paradoxical duality of qualities that are often associated with Australian men: a reserved bluntness. This is expressed through straightforward simplicity of language and the use of the appropriate vernacular. The following excerpt demonstrates Winton's use of direct speech and the Australian vernacular."Petrol?" Sean asked."Enough if we find something soon.""Bloody tourist maps.""Not far. Road's headin' for the coast."These literary touches are gently deployed, quietly amplifying the themes of the novel. Winton refuses to spell out the novel's themes + plot for the reader or...

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