Australian Concepts: The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea
Australia’s national values such as having a ‘fair go’ and egalitarianism have been represented in a countless number of literary texts over the period of hundreds of years. The more subtle and traditional Australian beliefs, such as mateship and close family bonds, are slowly disappearing or being forgotten as the new modern era is taking place. The novel ‘The Merry Go Round in the Sea’, delves into subjects such as these, viewed by the main character, Rob Coram. Randolph Stow, the author has dramatically captured the environment of the life of a young boy, growing up in Australia during the wartime. The concept of Australia from the viewpoint of six year old Rob Coram at the start of ‘The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea’, is not actually about the country itself, but one that is solely based upon his immediate surroundings. The security of his family and of the land that is his home, are the things that provide him with safety and identity. ‘He thought, often, of himself, of who he was, and why. He would think: I am Australian, and wonder why. How had he come to be Rob Coram, living in this town?’ This quote is taken from the beginning of the book, where Rob is lost and often struggles to define his own identity. The continual presence of the large Maplestead clan that he belongs to is very important, as it signifies, what Rob comes to believes, is his place in the world. This quote is an example of the shelter and protection Rob feels with family. ‘After that, the boy stopped listening to his mother’s warnings of doom. But because no catastrophe was possible which she would not have foreseen, he felt secure with her, he felt that she could thwart any danger, except the one danger he really feared, which was made up of time and change and fragmentary talk of war.’ Rob is engrossed in Geraldton, his home. The single connection with the outside world he has is of the war, which links to him simply because of his cousin and idol, Rick, and having to move homes every now and then. The importance and value of close family bonds is a fundamental Australian belief that is still held today. Family is where we draws our base set of values and beliefs, and the frequent visits and gatherings Rob shares with his tens of aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins is one of the elements that define his world. Australia is depicted in hundreds of literary texts by images of the ‘bush’ and outback. The landscape portrayed in most of the novel is set in more rural areas of Australia. Randolph Stow, the author, goes into a large amount of detail describing the scenery with its sights, smells and sounds, as demonstrated by the following quote: ‘In the gumtrees along the dry creek that wound almost to the river at Innisfail, cockatoos swirled like torn paper, catching the light. Rising from one tree, they flashed and screeched across the tiger striped sky to another, a quarter of a mile away. They infested the tree like migratory fruit-blossom, flapping, tearing, and quarrelling.’ Almost all of the descriptions are positive, painting the land in a beautiful and attractive light. The frequent mention of native animals and plants, together with descriptions of the vastness and emptiness of the terrain is undeniably Australian.
Rob’s life throughout the novel revolves around school, the beach and most importantly, his cousin Rick. It is the relationship between the two that supports the entire novel. The effect of Rick’s character is complicated, as we see him largely through Rob’s point of view. Being absent for half the book, his character can be difficult to grasp. While Rob adores and idolizes Rick, the adults in the family are continually criticizing him after his return from the war. ‘Rick was immature. He was lazy. He was a narcissist. He used dirty language. He had stayed at the very bottom of the army. He refused to be a farmer. He talked like Hitler about the Bomb. He looked bored and...
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