Wider Social Issues in 'Deadly Unna'

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Phillip Gwynne’s novel ‘Deadly Unna’ is set in Australia in the 1960s in the small coastal town of ‘The Port’, where indigenous Australians and Caucasians did not associate, a father was ashamed of his son and siblings supported one another. Gwynne effectively addresses the wider social issues of racism, psychological abuse and the importance of family in the novel. The issue of racism is thoroughly expored throughout Gwynne’s novel. Gary Black – ironically nicknamed ‘Blacky’ - the narrator of the text and the main character in the story defies the unwritten rules of the Port when he befriends a ‘Nunga’ who has joined his football team. The Nunga, named Dumby Red, makes Blacky question his personal beliefs about his attitude towards aboriginals when he finds himself starting to like Dumby. Blacky fails to admit this though, as he has been brought up to disrespect aboriginals. “So I stopped hating Dumby’s guts. Except I still acted like I did. I was used to it, I suppose. It was easier to stay like that”. (p. 26) Blacky’s resistance to admit to his true feelings about his relationship with Dumby illustrates the pressures of conformity that were bestowed upon the white youth in the novel. Racial discrimination is another issue raised in the novel. Written in graffiti inside the shed on the jetty is a statement demeaning aboriginals, which has not been removed like all other graffiti, highlighting the fact that the statement does not offend any member of the Caucasian public. “‘BOONGS PISS OFF’ it said. It was written in enormous block letters...If you wrote something like ‘MONICA IS A SLUT’ then it wouldn’t last very long, maybe a week, but ‘BOONGS PISS OFF’ had been there for ages”. (p. 121) The issue of racism is raised by the presence of this graffiti and persuades the youth of the Port to disrespect indigenous Australians. Through the exploration of themes such as individuality, standing up for your beliefs and racial discrimination, racism has been...
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