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“Remittance Man”- Judith Wright poem analysis

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In her poem “Remittance Man”, Judith Wright focuses on the theme of living up to society’s unwritten code of conduct within England’s 19th century culture. She suggests that within a society so socially divided, there remains the idle rich who are obligated to abide by the incessant need for social etiquette expected of their station. She compares this English lifestyle to a carefree Australian society.

Wright’s powerful use of imagery in painting the landscapes of Australia and England, contrast in extremes showing Australia as having a more comfortable, slow-paced society, described in ‘…red blowing dust of roads where the teams go slow.’ She compares the Australian life to the English, confined and unvarying, especially demonstrated in the upper classes that have the benefit of ‘pheasant shooting’. While these contrasts are based on the landscapes of the two countries, Wrights distinctions allow readers to empathise with the Remittance Man and the dramatic change in lifestyle he experiences. She explores the impinging factor of the environment on the human being. She proposes its influence in reviving positive and negative memories.

The poem sympathises with those whose personalities cannot conform or assimilate into their cultural context, for example the Remittance Man whose ‘spendthrift’ nature is improper for a man of his status. The need to please and live up to society’s expectations is a human condition emphasised throughout Wright’s poem.

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