Romulus My Father: Values & Belonging
Romulus values education and learning, but sadly, only completed primary school. He is a tragic figure from the very beginning: 3: ...an inefficient postal service, however, prevented his application [for high school scholarship examinations] from arriving on time. He cried bitterly, not because of lost employment prospects, but because his love of learning would never be fulfilled.
Romulus values European landscape – he does not find serenity, and does not belong to the landscape: 14: Though the landscape is one of rare beauty, to a European or English eye it seems desolate, and even after more than forty years my father could not become reconciled to it. He longed for the generous and soft European foliage, but the eucalypts of Baringhup, scraggy except for the noble red gums on the river bank, seemed symbols of deprivation and barrenness. In this he was typical of many of the immigrants whose eyes looked directly to the foliage and always turned away offended.
23: The peppercorns, to be found at almost every settlement in the area, were planted as though to mediate between local and European landscapes.
21: The Frogmore farmhouse is deplorable – it is not homely, or conducive to belonging and comfort: There was no electricity and no running water... Rats lived under the house and occasionally bit us in bed... Hora woke one night to find a large rat tugging at his elbow trying to make off with a piece of flesh. Large brown snakes came to eat the rats...
Romulus values purposeful work but is belittled by menial labour as a new immigrant: another example of Romulus not belonging to the mediocrity of Australian culture: 16: ‘New Australians’... were almost always given menial manual tasks... In the case of my father, this unusually gifted man was set to work with a pick and shovel. He noted how incompetent some of the Australian tradesmen were, especially the welders, but not with resentment or anger, more with incredulous irony. He had long come to accept what fate had dealt him and felt not resentment or indignation, or any other response which depended on the assumption that he was owed something better.
29: My father worked shifts at P&N, unable to avoid it because the foreman threatened to sack him if he did not do so. As a consequence, I spent many nights alone at Frogmore.
Romulus values fatherhood. He has a nobility about him:
17: He and Hora worked alternate shifts so that one of them could always care for me. At his request, my father was transferred to a job cleaning the lavatories in the camp so that he could be near me.
24: Primitive though the house was, it made it possible for my father to keep me rather than to send me to a home, and it offered hope that our family might be reunited.
31: My father’s devoted care of me contrasted obviously with her neglect, and fuelled hostility toward her.
Romulus values intimacy and his marriage and is crushed at Christine’s infidelity: 19: My father must have been heartbroken by his unfathomable, troubled, vivacious and unfaithful wife.
Romulus values character:
101: Character – or karacter... was the central moral concept for my father and Hora. It stood for a settled disposition for which it was possible rightly to admire someone... Honesty, loyalty, courage, charity (taken as a preparedness to help others in need) and a capacity for hard work were the virtues most prized by the men and women I knew then.
Romulus believes that life is short and full of suffering:
121: His sense of life is beautifully expressed in the ‘Prayer for the Dead’: ‘Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live and is full of misery. He cometh up and is cut like a flower. He fleeth as it were a shadow and never continueth in one stay’. Those accents of sorrow and pity determined his sense of all other human beings as his fellow mortals, victims of fate and destined for suffering....
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