Stereotypical Ideas Of Australian Identity English Literature Essay

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One such example of a text that can be identified as Australian due to its use of the stereotypical ideas of Australian identity is Clancy of the Overflow, a poem by AB Banjo Paterson. This text is written from the point of view of a city-dweller who once met the title character, a shearer and drover, and now envies the imagined pleasures of Clancy's lifestyle, which he compares favourably to life in "the dusty, dirty city" and "the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal". The title comes from the address of a letter the city-dweller sends, "The Overflow" being the name of the sheep station where Clancy was working when they met. The poem is based on a true story that was experienced by Banjo Paterson. He was working as a lawyer when someone asked him to send a letter to a man named Thomas Gerald Clancy, asking for a payment that was never received. Banjo sent the letter to "The Overflow" and soon received a reply that read "Clancy's gone to Queensland droving and we don't know where he are" The imagery that is used within the poem allows us to see the landscape that we now except to be Australian, the language used also allows us to appreciate the behaviour that we have come to adopt as our own 'Australian way'. For example "In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy, Gone a-droving `down the Cooper' where the Western drovers go; As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing, For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know." The real question is, without these so called 'Australian' images would we be able to recognise the text as an Australian one? The answer is no, Australian texts cannot afford to let their setting be ambiguous. Australia has few attributes that separate it from mediocrity and its setting is one of them.

As well as Australia's aesthetic attributes it also has its behavioural attributes that can be referred to as individual. Australian is renowned as being a masculine society, in which the sporting arena is worshiped; now this occurs other countries but this aspect of Australian life adds to overall individuality of Australian society. Bruce Dawe's Life Cycle is an example of this obsession that Australians have with sport in our masculine society. The diction in the poem plays the largest role in creating the ideas and the sense of obsession. The ability to create a poem which covers a life-cycle of a person through the game of AFL would not be possible without the choice of diction. For instance in the line "For possession of a Rusk: Ah he is a little Tiger!" It uses particular words like possession, which would be a term used in a game of AFL, or Tiger, the name of a team. Ideas are also conveyed through the word choice, for instance "You bludger and the covenant is sealed"- creates the sense that the poet is saying AFL is almost a religion. People live their life according to the success of the team they follow. The word covenant being a commonly used religious term portrays ideas of religion. The word choice and words chosen prove the obsession as they bring in direct ideas and terms from AFL, and relating them to many stages of life and deeper ideas such as religion. Australia being the young nation that it is has not forged its own identity fully as yet, although many different sources contribute to the country's social amalgam. It is possible for different understandings, representing different starting points, to be grafted onto a common stock of images and beliefs. And we see this done within Dawe's poem, which we identify as an Australian text.

Perhaps Australia suffers from these deeper identity issues because of the relatively ignoble cause of European settlement in this country. No tales of Pilgrim Fathers escaping from religious persecution for us. Instead there is the ball and chain and the ignominy of a convict settlement consciously designed to house what were considered to be the dregs of another society. Or perhaps the difference lies in the fact of the ease of our attaining self government and independence.

Whatever the case, we do know that Australian texts are recognised by their unambiguous imagery and setting. There are very few texts that show this better than Peter Allen's 'Tenterfield Sadler'. The highly stereotypical imagery that is used throughout the song is the kind that separates Australia from mediocrity and allows the text to be viewed as a unique 'Australian 'text. Some examples of this are, "52 years he sat on his verandah, made his saddles, and if you had questions about sheep or flowers or doves, you just asked the saddler, he lived without sin, There building a library for him" These words used are typically Australian, meaning that they appear nowhere else in the world, the use of these words, i.e. 'verandah' indicates the uniqueness of the Australian lifestyle and also the individuality of Australian texts. The typical Aussie has been described as "male, easy going, fair and democratic, having a healthy disrespect for authority, and a dry laconic humour". In the song, Peter Allen describes his characters as these types of people.

The problem with defining Australian identity is that there are so many different sources contributing to the country's social amalgam. This in itself does not cause an insuperable problem. It is possible for different understandings, representing different starting points, to be grafted onto a common stock of images and beliefs. And perhaps the matter is more simply explained as an absence of time since settlement coupled with such rapid change that there has been no opportunity to generate an Australian identity that can be consciously articulated and shared by all. We could argue all day about what the Australian identity should be but in the end the identity that we have, in the eyes of those who look in from the outside, is the well known stereotypical, cliché identity. And yes, any text that you read that is Australian will be identified so, due to the unambiguous fashion in which the setting and images have been constructed. The suit this 'stereotypical' identity we have acquired. 'Clancy of the Overflow', 'Life Cycle' and 'Tenterfiel Sadler' are all examples of how Australian texts use the things we have, and the things we do to separate us from the rest of the world.