The Shifting Heart Analytical Essay

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  • Topic: Christmas tree, Christmas, Racism
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‘The Shifting Heart’ Analytical Essay- The use of Symbolism

“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man- the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” (Abraham J. Heschel, Jewish philosopher). Richard Beynon’s ‘The Shifting Heart’ was first published in 1960, and insightfully explores the impact of racism. It is based on the lives of the Bianchis, an Italian family living in the suburb of Collingwood, during the post World War II immigration boom. As a literary device, symbolism is the representation of a concept through underlying meanings of objects. Beynon portrays the message, ‘racism is a result of intolerance, not the specific races alone,’ through the use of symbolism as well as the various racial attitudes of characters. The set of the play, harmonica and Christmas Tree are all vital in depicting the play’s theme and message. The use of symbolism in ‘The Shifting Heart” strongly highlights the contrasting racial attitudes towards the cultural differences of characters.

Firstly, the set of ‘The Shifting Heart’ signifies the various racial attitudes of characters. The Bianchi’s house is positioned between two houses, both occupied by ‘traditional’ Northern European Australian citizens. In the home on the stage right lives a woman who despises the Bianchis. This attitude is emphasised by the fence that divides the two properties, “The whole is bound tightly by two paling fences…The one on the right forms an almost formidable barrier… barbed wire even running along its top.” (Act 1 stage directions, p.7). A strong, sturdy fence would visually block out the Bianchi’s existence, and barbed wire along the top of the fence gives the sense of captivity or even a detention centre. This neighbour has created an obvious racial barricade, demonstrating her intolerance for the Bianchis. She is disinterested in interacting with them, and due to ignorance, has purposefully blocked the Bianchis out of her life. Beynon has intentionally left this neighbour nameless,...
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