Change is an ongoing process that involves the alternation of one state to another. However, the way individuals respond to that change is largely determined by their perspective, of how they see and understand things as well as their underlining psychological, social and ideological constructions. The process of change may be spontaneous and it involves pre-change, catalyst and outcomes. In studying “Looking for Alibrandi” by Melina Marchetta, this concept of change is shaped in terms of the central character Josie’s experience and lessons. Not only that, this universal theme is also observable in texts as diverse as “The Door” by Miroslav Holub, “American History X” by David McKenna, “My father began as a god” by Ian Mundie and “Student finds enlightenment in an embrace with her heritage”, an article out of the SMH written by Cynthia Banham. Collectively, various composers utilise a range of textual forms as well as stylistic techniques to convey the notions of change.
Initially, the protagonist Josie of “LFA” takes a melancholic stance towards her position in the society. Her psychology is affected by her insecurity and confusion towards her cultural identity. “As far as the Italians were concerned, we weren’t completely one of them…We weren’t completely Australians.” The use of “we” brings the reader closer to Josie by speaking as if the responder belongs to her own social context, thus achieving empathy. Josie’s perceptions and ideology is shaped by her social background “At St Martha’s…brains didn’t count as much, money prestige and what your father did for a living counted…it makes me feel that I will never be part of their society.” First person narration is used in compliance with the confession style direct speech which effectively creates empathy as Josie never lies about her inner feelings. Being illegitimate and belonging to a lower-middle class, Josie’s ideology is strongly affected by the microcosm of a rich school society. Her envious tone conveys her self-discriminative feelings “Being stuck at a school dominated by rich people, rich parents…Anglo Saxon Australians who I cant see as having a problem in the world.” As can be seen, Josie’s initial confused perspective is effectively shaped by her psychological, social and ideological constructions.
Progressing from the pre-change phase, Josie faces many catalysts initiated by herself and external influences. Her first encounter involves the entrance of Michael Andretti, her long lost father into her life. However, being neglected for seventeen years, she holds a mutually furious and confused attitude towards his presence. Her impulsive and angry tone demonstrates this:” How dare you think that I want to be in your life!” This however, contrasts to a later event where she utilises the external catalyst and initiates it as her own after she seeks Michael’s assistance with the Carly Bishop conflict. When Michael rescues her, she admits that “For a few minutes I knew how it felt to walk alongside one’s father, it was a great feeling.” her tone changes as she is no longer confused thus showing change, when self inflicted may lead to positive consequences.
Another event which alters Josie’s perspective is the annual walkathon where she disregarded her responsibilities as the vice captain of school to lead the juniors. Her confessional tone conveys that she is maturing from the lesson “Deep down I knew I was wrong…I think my emancipation began at that moment.” Later on the day, she also discovers the truth about her captaincy that she was in fact voted the school captain. Her initial negative view about her social standings in the school takes a positive turn “and I was voted the school captain. Socially we weren’t as shitty as we thought we were.”
One of the strongest catalysts which influence Josie is those of John Barton’s death. It effectively acts as the denouement of the novel, where the climax resolves all the conflicts. During the event Josie’s envious perspective on the rich and successful is challenged “How dare he kill himself when he’s never had any worries?” Her anxiety is resolved by her father that “A person doesn’t necessarily have to be happy just because they have social standings and material wealth, Josie.” John’s death is tragic but it allows Josie to mature from her naпve ideological perspective on the rich microcosm of the society. It can be therefore argued that change, whether initiated by self or external forces will allow people to positively progress.
Every change has its outcomes. Josie’s confused perspective on her heritage is effectively resolved by “I’m an Australian with Italian blood flowing rapidly through my veins.” Her change of tone also shows the change of perspective when she initially mocks religion by reading a “hot pants” magazine in religion class. “It’s full of rubbish…do you think that they have a column named “are you a good Christian”?” the naпve and arrogant tone changes to a much more serious and mature one “I’ll believe in god and I won’t let any church rules take that away from me.” To allow changes to be easily observable, Marchetta uses chronological narrations where Josie’s life is told through the period of one year. “You know, a wonderful thing happened to me when I reflected back on my year, “one day” came because I finally understood.”
Marchetta’s use of Intertexuality effectively highlights Josie’s emancipation “I’m not seventeen anymore, the seventeen where Janis Ian sang about where one learns the truth, but what she failed to mention is that you keeping learning truths after seventeen and I want to keep learning truths until the day I die.” This therefore conveys the notion that change is an ongoing process, not merely from point A to B.
Miroslav Holub’s poetry “The Door” depicts the change as a process. The poem begins with the imperative “Go and open the door” which actively encourage the responders to explore change. “The door” symbolises the barriers which enclose and restrict people’s perspective to those of present. It also symbolises an entry into a new world of possibilities to gain a new perspective. The use of “Maybe” in italics and its repetition conveys that change has no certainties, but its results are dependent on the person’s perspective and interpretations “Maybe outside there’s a tree, a wood”. However, the use of an optimistic tone persuades the reader that “If there’s a fog, it will clear.” The use of figurative language describes the worst possibilities of change “even if there’s only the darkness tickling, even there is only the howling wind” then builds to a climax with a reductive sentence structure “even if Nothing Is there”
This technique effectively forces the responder to read slower, until the last stanza, the coda which contains the theme of the poem “at least there’ll be a draught”. It shows that whatever the possibilities, whether good or bad, people will ultimately benefit from change.
The similar notions are conveyed in “LFA” where the process of Josie’s change begins with obstacles, but she is able to successfully embrace change thus directing it to the best results, seen through her emancipations.
Similar concepts of change are represented in the film “American History X”. The Protagonist Danny is brother to the leader of a fascist gang (D.O.C.), Derek who is imprisoned for the killing of a black American. Initially, Danny lives in a troublesome part of the America where racial tension is wide spread. Naturally, his psychological, social and ideological construction is based around white domination over the ethnic groups. His prejudice views however, radically changes as Derek is released from prison years later. His confrontation with Danny describes his experience in the prison thus highlighting that not one race is more superior.
There are many techniques in the film that shapes meaning for change. The story, much like “LFA” is narrated in chronological order in the form of an essay. It effectively shows the processes of change as organised and structured. It also allows the responders to witness the perspectives of before “Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, those perils are polluting our beautiful country” and an after “we must be tolerant of each other’s differences, what separates us is not the culture, but good and evil.” Symbolism of swastika is highly effective in showing Derek’s initial fascist perspective towards the ethnics. However, later as he tries desperately to wash it off, it remains as it was tattooed showing Derek’s resentments for being a fascist. Changing perspective is evident in Danny’s act of ripping the Nazi flags off his room, which symbolises his movement away from the Nazi ideology. Intertexuality is employed to highlight Danny’s change of perspective. Near the end of his film he quotes from Abraham Lincoln to convey his new perspectives “We are not enemies, but friends, we must not be enemies, though passions may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of memory will swell when again touched as surely they will be by the angels of our nature.” Technique of denouement is employed to convey Danny’s final perspective, that of tolerance “Life’s too short to be pissed off all the time.” It concludes the film with the death of Danny by the gun of a black youth.
The film conveys the notion that change is a process which will ultimately allow empathy into another perspective. However the outlook for further change is bleak for Danny whose process terminates at his death. This contrasts to Josie of “LFA” whose outlook is long and broad. Both texts explore the cultural crisis and universally convey that positive change of perspective needs to be self- directed to achieve greater balance in the society
“My father Began as a God” conveys the notion of change through many ways. It is similar to “LFA” as it is narrated in first person chronologically. The responders are then able to observe the changes of perspective from the narrator from young to old. The first two stanzas describes the father in a toddler’s eyes, with figurative language and biblical allusion to Moses “My father began as a god…as if bought down from Sinai” Proceeding to the third stanza, an obvious change in tone shows the change of perspective of narrator to an adolescent “until by my time of adolescence, he had become a foolish small man.” This effectively contrasts to the previous stanza and allow the responders to empathise with the narrator of a gigantic god transforming into a small man. The arrogant tone changes as the narrator matures on the next stanza, reaching empathy “his faults and his intolerances, scaled away into the past revealing virtues.” The process of change ends for the father, but continues for the narrator in the last stanza “how the deeper he recedes into the grave the more I see myself as just one of all the little men.” The empathetic tone conveys that change is an ongoing process, and perspective alters after experience thus reaching ultimate empathy.
This poem contrasts to “The Door” as it represents change as a definite and predicative process, whereas “The Door” coveys change as a more ambivalent kind. The idea of outlook is bleak in this poem where it shows the ultimate outcome is death but the message conveyed in “LFA” as well as “The Door” is those of infinite possibilities for further change.
Finally, “Student finds enlightenment in an embrace with her heritage” is a feature article that explores the changing perspectives of ethnical Australian culture. Thao Nguyen’s initial perspectives are shaped by her aspiration of childhood that she “prayed to God that one day she’ll wake up with blonde hair and blue eyes.” Living in a society where the white Anglo-Saxons claims majority, her ideology is shown in direct quote “You seem more accepted when you are white.” Her confused psychological state is highlighted by her “try to surround herself with only ‘white’ friends.” When she was young However, the catalysts for the change occur after she discovers on her passport that she is an Australian. Her thoughts were that “I thought Australian was white and I never called myself Australian.” Due to this revelation, her perspective begins to mature through time, especially after her humanitarian work in Vietnam. She claims that “It was a very enlightening experience and a turning point where I realised who I was.” It can be seen in this case that experience shapes new perspectives. The outcome of change is conveyed through the pull quote which is situated at the centre of the article, highlighting the theme “I wasn’t completely Vietnamese in an Australian society, nor completely Australian in a Vietnamese society. I was a hybrid of both and that was ok.” To a further extent, the result of change is positively portrayed by the photograph of Thao smiling, looking relaxed and attractive. The caption is integrated to convey the acceptance of change, of Thao being “Happy to be Australian”. The headline of the article also suggests that change is embraced. The final result is always dependant on the person’s ability to direct change to their advantage.
This article makes some uncanny resemblance to “LFA” as both texts explore the cultural identity crisis. Although some psychological factors between Josie and Thao are different; where Josie has only “wog” friends and Thao befriends with the white Australians; Both characters are able to open “The Door” thus finding self definition. Therefore, although the styles and form may be different, both texts are able to sustain a universal theme of change.
In conclusion, change is definitely a process that can sometimes be spontaneous in nature. However, different people’s psychological, social and ideological construction shapes their perspectives that reflect on the way they respond and direct that change. The different stages of change are universally shaped by different texts and techniques by characters like Josie in “LFA”, Danny in “American History X” and the personas/narrators in “The Door” and “My father began as a God” as well as Thao Nguyen in “Student finds Enlightenment in an embrace with her heritage”. It then can be said that change, although come in many forms all explores similar universal themes.
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