Archie Weller – “Stolen Car” and Victoria Zabukovec – “The Young Stranger”
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Readers are often prompted to investigate the imbalance of power in society through representations of race or ethnicity. Discuss how race or ethnicity is represented in two short stories you have studied this year.
Race and ethnicity brings an imbalance of power in society. Archie Weller’s “Stolen Car” and Victoria Zabukovec’s “The Young Stranger” are examples of short stories which represent these imbalances through themes and issues and the characters presented in these two texts. The protagonist characters of Johnny and Ivan bring their differences into an Australian society. They have become alienated and victims of this defensive and intolerant world. Because of this, readers are placed in a sympathising position. They must investigate and distinguish the certain arbitrary and non-arbitrary characteristics that shape and construct these two characters.
The physical attributes of a person generally create the initial response in a society. The colour of your skin or the clothes that one wears generally sparks off judgments about that certain person. Western society has constructed a generalisation that Aborigines commit crime and are considered as common trouble makers. Johnny has become trapped in this type of Western society, being considered an outcast. He is self-contained, powerless and oppressed in the city of Perth. He creates an imbalance of power in this society. “This is what he had come to Perth for. Enjoy yourself, then go home. But he can’t go home now. Restless, uneasy and bitter, like the city that has adopted him.” (Pg 93) This shows that Aborigines are stripped of their identity and culture in the city. It is an objective accomplished by the whites in hope to promote their authority and to obtain power, thus controlling it.
Ethnicity also creates different responses with many people. Race is not the only factor which creates controversy and the need for power. Marginalisation of ethnic groups is also common in society. It is not only the race of a person (or colour of their skin) which is the direct focal point, but it is the non-arbitrary characteristics. This being, any cultural backgrounds or traditions, not just the physical appearances of a person. Ivan’s life has been influenced by the social and cultural practices
of Australia. He must suffer, and it has become clear that this is a part of the migrant experience in Australia. “One [self-defence mechanism] was the two-world mechanism. As he discovered that certain things were approved of by the world outside of his home and family, and others were not, he acted accordingly.” (Page 107) Ivan’s own social practices as an ethnic member of society greatly differs from the dominant or appreciated social practices in Australia. He is forced to ‘conform’ to be able to fit in. It is because of his ethnicity that brings instability and fluctuations in the power chain. The defence of Australians in this case is to reject foreign ethnicities, including traditions and cultures to try and promote their own use of practices, all in purpose to generate power.
Both texts explored make use of techniques, which help readers investigate this unstable state of power in society. Weller’s strong use of language in “Stolen Car” and choice of words help create the archetypal Aboriginal character; namely Johnny, who is expressed by using slang and profane language. The city of Perth has been created to sound like a cruel institution, its purpose only to corrupt Johnny. Pessimistic words like “cruel city” or “tortured silhouettes” are used to make reader aware that western society is cruel, and will only harm Johnny. Zabukovec’s “The Young Stranger” represents this imbalance of power through structure. The text, being divided into sections, emphasises Ivan’s life as being detached. His ethnicity is first challenged once he enters a world away from home. In either case, Johnny and Ivan are oppressed and marginalised. They have created imbalances in main-stream society, especially regarding power, and unfortunately, they must conform, or be rejected.
Weller’s “Stolen Car” and Zabukovec’s “The Young Stranger” represent race and ethnicity respectively. This has been established through the techniques, which have been portrayed by the characters of Johnny and Ivan; both victims of western society. The themes and issues developed in the texts also play an important part in constructing the characters. These two characters, being portrayed as powerless and downtrodden, leave readers to believe that race and ethnicity are unfavourable in society. Living in a world dominated by non ethnic and non coloured members of society will only mean that people other than that will be marginalised and rejected. This is all done in favour to regulate power in society, keeping it distributed evenly amongst those with authority; namely those who are non ethnic and non coloured, living in a western society.