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‘Wild Cat Falling’ by Colin Johnson (Mudrooroo)

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  • Pages: 18
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  • Category: Character

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1. Does the long foreword to “Wild Cat Falling” by Mary Durack enhance, or detract from, your appreciation of the novel?

The foreword of “Wild Cat Falling” is written by non-Aboriginal Writer, Mary Darack.The long foreword is included the novel to attempt to explain the book to non Aboriginal readers.

The inclusion of the foreword in this particular novel enhanced my appreciation of the novel, because it was a starting point in my understanding towards the narrative.

Durack’s foreword shows the difficulty for an Aboriginal person to find their true identity while others try to create one for them. She also outlines the differences between the Aboriginal community and the White-Australian community. Her comparisons focus on non-Aboriginal modes of correct behavior and outline Aboriginal ones.

The book was “important, both for its literacy quality and as the first attempt by someone of Aboriginal Blood to express himself in this form”. (Page xvii).

Mary Durack outlined an important point in the structure and the language of the novel which helped make the reader aware of the type of language and layout of the novel. This foreword has enhanced my reading of the novel for all the reasons above and for the simple reason that it gave me a background of the novel and the writer in order to establish my understanding of the events and attitudes of the narrator.

Even though the forward has helped me understand the events in the narrative it has also made me appreciate this novel as a whole because of its significance to Aboriginal people and their recount of events which leads to a description of their treatment by the white society.

2. To what extent is the main characters “so what?” attitude to life simply a pose?

The narrators ‘so what?’ attitude to life is a pose because we find out towards the end of the novel that he really cares about his identity and where he fits into the community. The narrator seems to be careless about many aspects throughout his life until this attitude changes because he had realised his true identity.

Throughout the narrators life he has been posing as something he is not. He was told to act and think white (page 122) however he was never accepted as a ‘normal’ white youth. He was not able to associate with the noongar mob at a young age, even though they accepted him for who he was. When he got older he had to fake his attitude in order to fit in with the bodgie group in which he never did feel a part of the group.

In jail I graduated in vice and overcame my last illusions about life. Now I know hope and despair are equally absurd. (Page 41)

The narrator sees life as hopeless and filled with anguish. This could be the main reason in which he has posed this, “so what?” attitude in order to have a place in society even though he believes there is nothing to look forward to.

To disapprove of something means I must approve of something else. It means that I must believe in right and wrong, but I don’t. Both are illusions. (Page 91)

Secondly the narrator feels that he is disadvantaged and unaccepted into some parts in society because of his skin colour and heritage. The narrator also states that he has been affected by this factor and his life is simply a pose.

….the prison warped my mind, that when I first went in I still had some vestige of childish faith. Or I can put it down to my colour, being born under the curse of Ham and all that jazz (page 41-42)

Towards the end of the novel the reader begins to realise that the narrator does care about his identity. “Sorry brother “(page 129) the narrator apologises to the lizard. This shows the narrator has understood his connection with his Aboriginal heritage and no longer has to pose. He has become aware that he had an obnoxious attitude which was mainly due to the fact he was never able to practice his true identity.

3. ‘Friendship has no meaning’ (page 48) for the main character. What does?

The narrator has only referred to a group of people as his friends. He usually calls them acquaintances for the simple reason that he doesn’t have a close or understanding relationship with anyone.

“For one thing we make the only friends we have in jail, but if were seen talking outside were arrested for consorting with crims.” (Page 43). This is the conversation that the narrator has with June, the university student. He refers to his true friends are the ones in gaol and they are the only true friends someone could have. People outside of gaol would not protect and support the narrator the way the gaol friends would.

Acquaintances do have meaning, however not for understanding and support but for undertaking crime. They help with carrying out crimes and are seen as a tool.

The most important factor in the narrator’s life which has meaning is identity. The ‘rabbit man’ helps him find his identity even though it was staring him in the face the whole time.

“I haven’t got a country” I say. “I don’t belong anywhere”

“You can’t lose it” he says. “You go away but you keep it here” (page 126)

The narrator discovers that he can never lose his identity. He just needed to find it within himself and accept what he is. The narrator was always curious about his position is this world and the ‘rabbit man’ has made it clear to him that he has never lost his aboriginal heritage and never will.

4. Are the various snippets of song lyrics an effective part of the novel? If so, why? If not, why not?

Throughout the novel there are small parts of song lyrics. These lyrics play a big role in the readers understanding of the novel because they help to set the atmosphere, mood and setting of the chapter or the scene. When reading the lyrics we realise most of them are sad, depressing songs also known as Blues music which was fashionable in the early sixties. The lyrics set the mood because the words to the song usually complement the feelings of the narrator.

…They’ve been so long down lonely street

That they’ll never, oh never, come back… (Page 58)

The lyrics in the song above are from the music which Denise played from the jukebox. The scene was the milk bar when the narrator was recently released. These lyrics show he is feeling the same way the lyrics suggest.

The song lyrics are effective because they help the reader understand the narrators thought’s and feelings in a few lines. This helps the reader understand the situation and maybe associate to the narrator’s feelings.

Black, black cat where are you going to go?

Black cat, so black cat when are you going to go?

Been sitting here all night,

It really ain’t right,

You gotta go to be in the know. (Page 17-18)

The lyrics in the song above are when the narrator is in a flashback in the dance hall. These lyrics show the narrator feels isolated and abandoned. The narrator has remembered this particular incident at the hall because he is being ejected from goal. The lyrics are reminding him that he has no-where to go and is unnoticed and unimportant to anyone anymore. The “black cat” symbolises his superstitious qualities and the fact that he has nowhere to go and no one who cares.

Overall the various snippets of song lyrics are important because they show the atmosphere, attitude and thoughts and feelings of the narrator in a couple of lines. They are a significant feature in this novel in particular because they complement the narrator by his attitude and thoughts towards certain objects and people.

5. The city seems to be a garish, threatening place to the main character. Do you agree? Consider some of his descriptions of aspects of the city environment. Why does the main character feel this way?

The city is a garish, threatening place to the main character. I agree to this point because the narrator may feel out of place because of the distinctiveness of his identity.

…and I walk out alone into a roar of traffic and a dazzle of neon signs.

I wader down the main street alone in the crowd. (Page 47)

The crowds in the city may intimidate the narrator because he is no used to seeing this amount of people in one place. He may feel this way because in gaol he was not able to walk around freely without a guard observing their ever action. He may feel insecure because of the crowds which he is not familiar with and the feeling that he is always being watched and cannot go out of line. This is mainly a psychological issue which he has brought out of gaol.

The narrator is used to being around people he knows, such as the bodgie gang, that he does not feel safe because he doesn’t know anyone in the city.

I believe the main character feels that the city is a garish, threatening place because he has not had enough experience so far in surviving outside of gaol. This may be the reason of unsure where he belongs, where to go and who to see. He may feel like a little person which goes unnoticed through these little crowds and is scared that he won’t fit in, mainly because of his identity.

6. Contrast the two young women with whom the main character is involved in wild cat falling- Denise and June. Do they have anything in common or do they represent two extremes of the kind of women the main character is interested in.

In certain parts of the novel the narrator has been involved with two women, Denise and June. They have nothing in common except the fact that they both attract the narrator, in different ways however. June attracts the narrator in the intellectual way while Denise attracts him in the sexual way.

Denise is a part time prostitute and is part of the bodgie group which the main character associated with before going to gaol. On the other hand June is intelligent, thoughtful and good looking. “She is a nice doll this one” (page 88) the main character says of June. June is also a university student which has the same intellectual as the narrator.

The narrator met Denise at a dance one night and he “paid her for the first time, but not after that.” (Page 56). She was an attractive girl to the narrator “…dig eyes glow, lips nature-red are parted…. slightly stained teeth. Dark hair is alive…she still attracts me…” (Page 56).

June was also an attractive girl in the eyes of the narrator.

She lies stretched out in the sun and her skin is golden brown. Swell doll. Long and slim with firm small breasts tightening the fabric of her white swim suit. I realise that jail has not killed my sex urge. (Page 38)

The narrator feels that June has opened a whole new path to his life but he feels unable to walk down it. He feels displaced because of her identity, however he feels so connected.

She takes off her glasses and her eyes are wide and blue. She is about the prettiest doll I have ever seen, but she is far away from me as the wide blue sea. (Page 46)

The narrator feels he has nothing to hide from June and can tell her anything he wants. He feels like she respects his opinions and attitude. That is why he says “my mum was half-caste”, I tell her “but my dad was white.” (Page 42). He feels that Denise understands him in order to accept him as a half-caste and that is the main reason he told her. He has never told anyone he knew that his mum was half-caste if he thought they would judge him.

June judged the narrator for who he was and not for how he looked like. She was accepting his aboriginality and was interested in meeting up again but only for a chat and not a date.

She is a change from the ignorant, giggling chicks I have known before and it might be worth seeing her again. (Page 46)

Denise is described as one of the chicks which are ignorant and giggling but she is not directly mentioned. Denise is someone who can get boring at times. “The clearness fogs and the world grows dull again.” (Page 57).

June is someone who can entertain the narrator because she has the qualities in a girl which he likes.

Overall Denise and June are two extremes in which the character is interested in. the narrator is able to express his feeling to both of the girls however Denise would comfort him and say things like “it will be alright” and June would help him come to his own conclusions and solve his own problems while directing him what to do.

8. On a number of occasions the main character refers to himself as feeling ‘god-like’ (page 111). Why does he represent himself in this way?

The narrator describes himself as feeling godlike for many reasons. The main one being that he wants the power. He wants the power to carry out crimes and go unnoticed. He wants the power to change his life around and find meaning in life.

I have a swell feeling of power now. Not a puny human weakling any more. Sort of god-like and the engine roaring out my strength at the world. (Page 111)

The narrator also wants to be god-like because he will have the power and strength to control what he wants happening in his life. He would have control over which he will associate with and who he will punish for any trouble he has encountered with them.

….but why should this girl mean something to me? I want to be unmoved by everything-like a god. (Page 59)

The narrator reveals this when he has finished having sex with Denise. He wants to be able to forget about Denise and move on. He wants the power of letting things go and not regretting them afterwards.

How can there be secrets unknown to the living god? He is everywhere and he sees into the hearts of each and every one of you. He sees into the deepest and blackest cave. He is awake to all your lies and all your tricks. I tell you god is not mocked .no! ……but god is not blind. He can blast you down at this very moment and send your souls straight to the everlasting fires of hell. (Page 23)

A reason the narrator may want to be god-like is to have all the powers mentioned in the passage above. This quote shows the powers of god and the narrator may feel he needs these powers in order to distinguish his real friends from the pretend friends. He would be able to direct his life into a path which he wants and be able to create his own path to direct his life through it.

8. What is the significance of the title?

The title of the book Wild Cat Falling could suggest many aspects of the narrators’ life. There are partial references to the title of the novel which include; “Black Cat” (Page 17 song lyrics). “Black Cat” (page18, conversation),”Black Cat” (page 21, song lyrics). “Cat” (page 65), “night cat” (page 82).

The first part of the title, “Wild Cat”, is a pun. It can be translated into two meanings. The first one being, the wild cat could be the narrator or it could be the aboriginal society as a whole.

The Narrator may feel like a Wild Cat when he came out of gaol and had no-where to go and no-one who cares enough about him. The narrator could feel like a wild cat because he does not know where he stands in society because he has no idea of his identity because he was told to be an aboriginal and denied his heritage which he was born with, Aboriginal.

“….but that side of my heritage must be kept from me at all costs. I must live white and learn to think with a white mans mind.” (Page 122)

The other meaning which wild cat could be translated into was all aboriginals are wild cats. This is a more general translation and focuses on the fact that Aboriginals are wild cat which are not cared for. They have no say in the white community and are not given a second look or chance by the white-Australians.

Secondly, the other half of the title falling is the deterioration of the main character. The narrator is constantly losing hope and self esteem and is not attempting to charge his attitude or behavior to get back onto his feet. This shows that he is on the downhill of his life and is not getting up on his feet to reintegrate into society.

It could also mean the whole aboriginal culture is “falling” apart. This may be cause by the pressure to assimilate into white society and force them to forget their aboriginal heritage, culture and traditions.

Overall the title, wild cat falling could be translated into many forms and has significance to the events which arise in the novel.

9. Describe and analyse the main characters relationship with Jessie, his mother.

The narrator and his mother have had a changing relationship. When the narrator was a child his mother played a big part in his life. She was very much the most important person in his life and their relationship was very loyal.

Throughout the novel we see the changing relationship which the narrator has had with his mother since being admitted gaol. There is also a change in the narrator’s attitude towards his mother.

I get home late. Mum asks me where I’ve been. I tell her just mucking about with some of the kids from school, but she knows I’m telling a lie.

“You want to stay with me, son?” She asks

I nod and look at the floor.

“They’ll take you away like the rest of them,” she says.

“No!…” (Page 14)

At this stage in the novel, the narrator is having a flashback. We realise that the narrator does not want to be separated from his mother by the welfare because she is not looking after him properly. This quote shows their closeness and the fact that they would have trouble living away from each other, especially the narrator.

Further on in the novel the narrator begins to lose his appreciation of his mother and his connection with her. This could be because he was admitted into gaol for a period of 18months and has lost her trust towards him.

The narrator does not appreciate his mother because she was pulling him away from is aboriginality and placing him into a society which he did not fit in. she wanted her son to “live white and think with a white mans mind.” (Page 122).

The narrator has lost all connections with his mother because he does not know where she is living until he meets the ‘rabbit man’. “Mum in the noongar camp?” (Page 122).

I’ve got to go now mum. Got an appointment with a chick. See you again some time mum.”

That means never (page 115)

The narrator does not spend much time with his mother anymore. He would rather meet other people than help his pensioned mother. The narrator at this stage cares a little because he actually made the effort to see her for a little while. However this brief visit will turn to no visit at all in the future as we are told.

The narrator does not appreciate his mother’s decision to take away his heritage, however in the end he finds who he really is and wants to be and it is too late. He is caught by the police for attempted murder.

10. Check a dictionary definition of nihilism. Are there significant moments in the novel when the main character is not displaying a bleak, nihilistic attitude?

Nihilism is defined as rejection of all religious and moral principals and belief that nothing really exists. Throughout the novel the main character displays a bleak, nihilistic attitude. This attitude changes towards the end of the novel when he is confronted by the ‘rabbit man’. The rabbit man reveals the narrators aboriginality.

“This country knows you all right, son. You keep to the bush.” (Page 129), the narrator has found his identity and true heritage. He belongs to the land and is now able to understand why he has always felt so lonely. “Sorry brother” (page 129). The narrator says this to the lizard as an apology for all the hardship he has caused the lizards while killing them as a youth, but most importantly to the land.

The narrator understands the connection with the land and his Aboriginal heritage and realised how rich it is to aboriginal culture.

Secondly, the narrator shows his caring side when he is arrested. “Is he going to live? I didn’t mean to kill a man. It wasn’t in my mind.”(Page 131). The narrator asks the policeman whether the man he shot was going to live. This shows he has mercy for what he did and understands that he has done wrong.

The narrator also shows some understanding to the policemen who are doing their job and realises that they are not all bad. “I have never found or expected any kindness or pity in a coppers face.” (Page 131).

11. How inevitable is the ending of wildcat falling- that is, the impending return to jail of the main character?

The return to gaol by the main character was predicted because of his past and present actions. The novel is structured as a cyclic narrative. It is not just a story about one aboriginal male, Jessie Duggan’s boy, but of most of aboriginal males. Even though one character may change their behavior and attitude the rest of the aboriginal males will not change and that is inevitable.

Even thought the main character may have realised his identity and where he stands in society, it was too late. This story may symbolise poor, aboriginal males. It is a cycle which cannot be broken unless the majority of people change which is not going to happen for sure.

The impending return to gaol by the main character was unavoidable because he has committed a crime which is severe. Even though he may have found who he really is on the inside and regretted his action, it is not an acceptable action which he carried out earlier.

The write Colin Johnson has made this narrative an effective one because it deals with issues which are concerned with aboriginal youths. The impending return to gaol was a great way to end the novel because it truly showed the difficulties faced by aboriginals to behave well.

12. Some media reports in recent times have cast doubts on Mudrooroo’s aboriginality. How much does that issue matter-to you as a reader- when weighed up against the important points the novel makes about the situation of aboriginal people? If the doubts raised concerning Mudrooroo’s aboriginality were found to be valid, would your reading of other works by him be significantly affected?

In recent times some median reports have cast doubts about Colin Johnson’s (Mudrooroo’s) aboriginality. These doubts were mainly about his true identity and whether he was of aboriginal heritage. It has been claimed that he is of “negro descent” (review by Greg Hughes, university of Queensland).

The novel describes the attitudes, actions, thoughts and feelings of aboriginal people. It also contrasts aboriginal culture with white culture briefly. I believe this novel is written effectively In order to convey aboriginal lives. It outlines many issues which affect the aboriginal community and go unsolved or years. An example is the narrator’s identity. He is constantly unable to assimilate into white society because he feels unaccepted. This has made him unsure of where he stands in life however he eventually finds his aboriginal heritage in which he was denied as a youth.

Mudrooroo’s work is exceptionally good because it enhances the readers understanding of aboriginal people and their action, attitudes, and feelings. If it is found that mudrooroo is really not an aboriginal, it would not affect my readings and appreciation of any of his other books. This is for the main reason that he believed he was an aboriginal at the time and was writing as an aboriginal with an aboriginal mind.

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