The Divine Wind Essay
In the story of The Divine Wind, Garry Disher explores the complexities of racial prejudice, which was one of the main themes of the novel. Prejudice is "a pre-conceived opinion"; which is simply discrimination, and judging people before knowing them. Racial prejudice is judging people on their race, (eg. The Aboriginals). During the time in which this novel was set, Broome had such a diverse, and multicultural community, hence the range of attitudes. Many of those who were brought up in the town were more accepting then the new comers. But, many were really racist, and denied non-white Australians many rights, including the right to equality; respect; justice and freedom.
The most obvious way Disher portrays racial prejudice was the way that the white society forced others into isolation from the general public. Non-whites were not treated as equals. The Japanese community lived in Chinatown with other people of a similar ethnic background. The Japanese were seen as only a working class society, forced to live in low class accommodation, and work hard, for minimal pay. The Aboriginals either lived out in the bush with their tribal group, or on a station as workers. When living with their kind out in the bush, the white community saw this as, "out of sight, out of mind", and basically tried to forget about the Aboriginal "problem". When living on the station, they were treated badly, and punished for being slightly out of line. I believe that the Aboriginals were treated with extreme disrespect, and didn't deserve that kind of treatment. Aboriginals are normal people as well. In the cinema where Hart, Alice and Mitsy went to be entertained, there was an unofficially pre-determined section for Aboriginals and Islanders. This is very racist, and if it happened today, people would really frown upon this attitude.
Another way prejudice affected minority groups, was that the white society had absolutely no respect for the non-white community. People felt that the Aboriginals had no feelings, and werenâ€™t real humans with emotions. They also felt that all the Japanese were people with no morals, and had a mindset to taking over the world. When the Penroses went to dinner at the Kilian's, they had a conversation about the future of the regional area. Eventually, a heated argument began between Mr. Kilian and his son, Jamie. "And who works the machinery?" Jamie demanded his father. "We may need some black workers," his father conceded. Magistrate Kilian felt that the native should be left in this state, and only bother the white community to work the heavy machinery. This type of attitude towards the Aboriginal people is very narrow-minded, because the Aboriginals are normal people, just like the common white person. In the scene at Hartog Downs, Alice felt really violated when put into this situation. When Carl Venning, the Webbs and Army Officer Morrissey were having a conversation about how unreliable the "Abo" is, and that they'll help guide the "Japs" through the bush to attack us; I felt really sorry for Alice. People were talking negatively about the things she stood for. I felt that she had the right to act the way she did, to get up and leave. If I were Alice, I would have done exactly what she did. I would have involved my opinions, and then storm out in front of everyone just to indicate my own personal beliefs.
The white community also denied ethnic groups fair trials, and even fought to lock them up. With Derby Boxer's arrest, the police convicted him mainly on his racial background. To make it worse, they produced a false confession, and tried to portray it as Derby's own. Michael Penrose could see right through this because of the language of Derby's so-called confession, and also because he knew and believed in Derby; he wasn't prejudiced. Derby spoke in Pidgin English, which is a very uneducated way of speech. In the confession, he was using formal English. He was talking in a way that no one had ever heard him talk in. At the time of the confession, he was drunk. How can Derby remember so much detail? Why did the police do this? They thought they could convict another Aboriginal, and rid the country of another one. This is just the racist attitude of the white community at the time.
When the war arrived, the white community was really scared of the Japanese, because they were invading other countries, and Australia was close to Japan. With the threat of invasion, people harassed the Japanese, thinking that they'd help with the invasion. The Japanese were beaten, harassed, and hated. Eventually, every single Japanese person was taken away, and placed into internment camps. This happened because people thought that all Japanese were evil minded. I don't believe that any of the Japanese needed to be interned, because not only the men were interned, but the women and children were as well. This would have been totally irrelevant, and a waste of government funds. How would young children, and elderly women help out the Japanese? All this time, they had all been living in unison with the white community, and now they were interned, and treated like an invading enemy.
Racial prejudice still exists today, but nowhere near the degree of previous times. During the early 1940's, Australia had an official "white Australia" policy, which denied the settlement of non-white foreigners. Today, Australia is very diverse, and has a huge emphasis on multiculturism. Although there are still some really racist people, overall, the general community is more tolerant of the non-white societies. Most people today accept everyone as real people, with full emotions. However, after the recent attacks on America, and the war with Saddam Hussein, people are beginning to become racist towards the Muslin community. People are behaving just as they originally did against the Japanese. I don't believe that we will go as far as internment again, but the insecurities of the general community might revert back to the days, where the Japanese and Aboriginals were isolated to their own kind. Although, current refugees are been treated like this, where they are been locked up into detention centers until they have been cleared for a visa.
In the novel, The Divine Wind, racial prejudice was at work in many different ways. But, in today's society, racism is frowned upon, and actively discouraged. Disher explores the theme of racial prejudice in The Divine Wind by challenging people's opinions and attitudes. He does this by including scenes, which conflict with the reader's own beliefs, and therefore forces them to think about the situation. Today, racism is still a problem, but it is nowhere near the concentration as in yester years.
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