Ruby Langford’s Autobiography extract shows us different aspects of belonging than Winton’s story. Explain this. There are a substantial amount of aspects that correlate and contrast with the theme of belonging in various texts. Although our sense of belonging is vital for our survival and existence, everyone has their own approach to belonging and define it in their own way. The extract “why we didn’t assimilate” by Ruby Langford explores belonging from the eyes of an aborigine woman and how she is affected by the society that surrounds her.
Tim Winton’s short story The Water’s Edge and this extract share similarities and differences in language techniques, but more importantly, they contrast in how they approach belonging and what it is to have a strong sense of belonging. Ruby Langford’s extract begins with her moving to green valley, a place widely populated with white people. Amongst this white residence there is a designated house made just for aboriginal residence. They were forced to live there due to the government policy of integration/assimilation, they “belonged” there.
Belonging cannot be ordered, or directed by government policy it arises from deep sharing of values. The title of the extract “why we didn’t assimilate” confirms this. Ruby “felt very isolated from [her] friends and culture. All [her] neighbors were white”. She felt alienated by the rules of living in a housing commission house especially the rule about guests “the rule was useless in our culture”. Ruby ignored these rules as; in order to belong we fulfill ourselves not pretend to be someone else. The girl from the water’s edge (in order to fulfill herself) swam into the dark ocean.
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Just as ruby ignored these rules, the protagonist in waters edge rejects her mother because her mother and the (government in the extract) are trying to make them something they are not. They rebel in order to find a stronger sense of belonging. The clear contrast between the two texts can be seen through their perceptions of the idea of belonging to a family. The water’s edge is all about losing these family connections while the extract suggests that family bonds will only strengthen belonging. This is seen through how both authors describe family through language used.
The protagonist from water’s edge “just wished her mother would put the bottles away”. The qualifier ‘just’ indicates an impatience with and intolerance of her mother. This is supported with her judgment that her mother was either “sick or stupid”. This juxtaposes with “when the kids asked why I was crying…we hugged each other…” the strong sense of family is clearly seen in the extract. The young girl in Winton’s short story challenges conventional belonging to her mother and becomes attached to nature and believes that only the strong survive.
Another thing to notice is that Winton’s story is built on anonymity while a lot of names are used in the extract; their belonging is based on family while the girl thinks she can make it on her own. The mother and the protagonist don’t even make conversation throughout the text, but the kids in the extract talk and interact with their mother to further exaggerate that belonging strengthens with strong connections with family. The tones used to illustrate belonging in both texts are different in terms of how their authors view belonging and what it takes to have a strong sense of belonging.
In Langford’s extract, she uses first person narration and speaks to the reader as a friend “my first glimpse of the house left me with a lump in my throat”. Her voice is passive, conversational and resilient; we notice that there is depth in her character and her ability to create a place of belonging in a predominantly white area. She has a very authentic voice “I was dying to see another black face…someone to pass the time of day and yarn with”, she uses ordinary idioms and this narrative voice keeps us very close to her viewpoint.
This contrasts with Winton’s use of third person narration and focalized narration to describe the girl’s point of view. The protagonist’s judgment that her mother was either “sick or stupid” is an example of focalized narration, this allows Winton to keep us emotionally distant from the reader yet allow us to understand her frustration. Winton described the girl’s emotions differently because by rejecting her mother (her family) she could be edging the point of alienation in the fluid continuum of belonging.
Both The Water’s Edge and Why we didn’t assimilate creatively explore senses of belonging. Through exploration and interpretation of the text, I have discovered a vast array of representations of belonging. Through contrasting both texts I have discovered the different aspects that belonging can have and how in some cases it can be complex. Winton’s text explores how someone can belong to something more than family and Langford’s extract shows the strength that comes from belonging to a family. By considering these aspects of belonging we are enlightened.
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