The Concept of Change in Different Literary Works

Change is a paradoxical notion, which involves the conflict between internal indecision and external influences. It is a process of transition achieved through the mechanisms of reflection, self-evaluation, and learning. Change can be embraced or feared, but the consequences of change must inevitably be dealt with. This is the salient factor of change that is responsible for shifts in perspective, as it facilitates greater knowledge and understanding, which broadens our current perspectives and influences our attitudes, values, and behavior. A heightened understanding of the concept of change can be gained through the deconstruction of texts such as Melana Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi, The Conciliation and The National Picture from the stimulus book, Peter Skrzynecki’s “Postcard” and “10 Mary Street” from the Immigrant Chronicle, and a 1996 satirical cartoon by Randy Glasbergen.

Through these texts, we can see that change is not merely an emotional and physical journey, but a societal, cultural, technological, scholastic, inter-personal, and psychosomatic one as well.

The novel “Looking for Alibrandi” by Melena Marchetta is an autobiographical work of fiction about Josephine Alibrandi, a Catholic girl, in her final year of high school.

As the year progresses Josie alters her perspective on many issues including her culture, family, own identity, and the importance of social standing and wealth. The causes of these changes are internal, external, and a combination of the two. Josie expresses her wish to be emancipated, to be free from cultural judgment and the boundaries of social class. By the end of the novel, she realizes that she has been emancipated, not by one single event, but by her experiences throughout the entire year.

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One such example is Josie’s perspective of her grandmother, which changes from viewing her as a nagging old woman, to having a loving, caring, respectful relationship with her. The episodic, which is written in first person and linear sequence (chronological order) enables the reader to see the stages in which her perspective changes as she gains knowledge about her past and has to deal with the changes and disruptions that take place in her life.

In the text, Josie’s background is seen as a hindrance as shown in the school scene where she fights with Carly Bishop over Carly’s use of the word wog. “You’re more than a wog.” This kind of prejudice and racism is one of the unsightly aspects Josie has to deal with because she comes from an Italian background. At this junction, the theme of adversity plays a role. Nonna had to deal with the adversity of being left alone in a country where she did not speak the language and felt unloved, “Your grandfather Francesco treated me like one of his farm animals.” Nonna prevails over this treatment and dealt with the lifestyle change and is ultimately able to tell Josie of the problems she faced.

Furthermore, Josie’s mother had to surmount the predicament of being a single parent and this illustrates another figure of change. “Does me being your mother make me less human? Josie?… have needs like other people and once in a while I like being with people my age.” This shows that the change Chistina has had to deal with and her struggle is not an isolated one. The use of phraseology, idiomatic expression, and direct speech which gives novel authenticity and short sentences with the use of sarcasm help to depict the shift in perspective. While both examples relate to older characters in the book, the idea of dealing with adversity and the way it affects change is something all individuals face and one that must inevitably be dealt with.

The concept of change is not only demonstrated through the chief protagonist, Josephine but minor characters such as Michael Andretti, Christina, and Nonna. In the novel, Michael Andretti makes the following statement “People change, circumstances change..” (pg.243). A key event in the novel that changes Josephine Alibrandi’s perspective and helps shape our understanding of the concept is the meeting of her father, Michael Andretti. Initially, before Josephine has even met Michael, she resents him as she feels that he abandoned her mother during her pregnancy. When she first meets him, however, she gets the impression that he is intelligent and a decent human being, though she doesn’t make it known to him. After Josephine gets into a fight at school with Carly Bishop, Carly’s father threatens legal action. In the spur of the moment, Josephine says her father is a lawyer and he is called up and asked to come to the school. Unexpectedly, he arrives and the issue is resolved. As Josephine is walking alongside her father, it is at this moment that she has a change of perspective, as she likes the feeling of having a father figure. She comes to acknowledge him, and her affection deepens into love, “I love you, you know.”

Other minor shifts in perspectives occur in Josie’s love life. Firstly, there is John. He is the first real love of her life. However, we see that his attraction has something to do with his status and embodiment of all the North shire glamour dreams that Josie has dreams of achieving at the start of the novel. Then there is Jacob. Initially, Josephine starts by dismissing Jacob, and then she falls in love with him, only to be shattered when he dumps her. By the end of the novel, however, we see that she has regathered her sense of perspective sufficiently to acknowledge Jacob’s importance in her life. Marchetta has demonstrated that change can be triggered by singular moments and events in life and that through internal indecision and external influences change is inevitable.

The Conciliation and The National Picture from the stimulus book, explore the nature of historical, cultural, and technological change. The Conciliation, composed by Benjamin Duterrau in 1840, is an illustration of the rounding up of the last surviving Tasmanian Aborigines. It portrays the historical significance of George Robinson’s “rescue” expeditions, and presents him as an exponent of peace, as exemplified by his central dominant position in the foreground of the painting. The artwork depicts the idealized British colonists’ perspective on the end of bloodshed and racial differences and does not reflect the failure of Robinson’s conciliation attempts, which resulted in the incarceration and eventual eradication of the Tasmanian Aboriginal race.

The handshake symbolizes conciliation, but appears false and superficial, due to Robinson’s lack of eye contact with the Aborigines, and the lack of agreement implied by the Aborigine’s detached facial expressions and gestures. Robinson’s attire and appearance juxtaposed with the Aborigines’ primitiveness reinforces the idea of European supremacy and marks Robinson as the noble conciliator and initiator of change. The stylized nature of the composition, posed and artificial, lacking emotion, undermines the theme of conciliation. The title of the text is ironic to contemporary viewers, as the idea of conciliation has changed over time. This change in perception reinforces the way perspectives shift and alter with context, and how meaning changes with it.

The National Picture, composed by Geoff Parr in 1985, is a satirical appropriation of The Conciliation which highlights the hypocrisy of the original painting and acknowledges the dishonesty of Robinson’s persuasion of the Aborigines through its unrealistic and synthetic appearance. It manipulates features of The Conciliation to present a new perspective on Robinson’s actions, which focuses on land ownership and reconciliation. Robinson is completely omitted in The National Picture and is replaced by a superimposed image of Trucannini, the last full-blooded Aboriginal woman.

The dominant Trucannini who is a symbol of the genocide in Tasmania, the replacement of Aboriginal icons with cardboard cut-outs and props (such as the surveyor’s sticks) which symbolize white materialistic attitudes, and the fading Aboriginal figures in the background, all represent the erosion of Aboriginal culture and the destruction of the natural environment caused by white settlement. The National Picture reflects the significant change in our perspective towards Aborigines over the 19th to 20th century, which has facilitated greater cultural awareness and acceptance. Furthermore, the use of the photographic medium and the presence of contemporary icons (such as the stereo) indicate the introduction of technology and changes in the way in which texts are constructed.

The Conciliation and The National Picture interact with each other to demonstrate the shift in values and attitudes from racist victimization to multiculturalism that has occurred in Australia. This is particularly valuable in the context of the recent attempts to achieve reconciliation in Australia and is indicative of the ever-changing society in which we live.

Change can be individual, rather than societal, as manifested in Peter Skrzynecki’s poem “Postcard.” “Postcard” is structured in irregular stanzas, which reveal the poet’s confused emotions. It expresses the composer’s inner conflict and resistance to his cultural identity, and the need for personal change that is imposed on him by the postcard he receives from a friend, describing Warsaw city. Eloquent language is employed to create vivid imagery of Warsaw city in the reader’s mind, for example, “red buses” and “high rise flats.” There is a shift in the composer’s tone, denoting the marked change in the poet’s perspective as he is forced to consider Warsaw for himself. Warsaw is symbolic of his cultural roots and as the center of his parents’ memories.

However, instead of having his memories of Warsaw, the son recalls his parents’ memories of the old town, suggesting that the parent’s influence has distorted the son’s perceptions of his cultural heritage. The poet’s struggle against the pull of his past is reinforced by the repetition of the phrase, “I never knew you/Let me be” and the rhetorical question, “What’s my choice to be?” He believes that this world belongs to his parents, not to him, and is caught between the inheritance of a European past and the need to establish his place in Australia. The final sense of inevitability seen in, “A lone tree/Whispers:/We will meet/Before you die,” contrasts with the earlier image of resistance. The shift from past to present mirrors the shift from Poland to Australia, signifying the divisions between two cultures and two generations faced by migrants. “Postcard” thus enables us to gain insight into the migrant experience and the constant changes and feelings of alienation faced by migrants.

“10 Mary Street” takes up a similar division but examines familial change. It is an autobiographical poem that presents the idea that for migrants, change is inevitable, particularly change in their physical environment, as they are in a constant state of transition. “10 Mary Street” describes the daily routines of the family from the child’s perspective. The enjambment of one sentence to the next gives the poem a conversational rhythm and the first-person narrative creates a sense of immediacy, which draws the reader in. A concrete conception of the family’s home and the orderly ritual of activities as in, “We departed/Each morning, shut the house…,” is created through vivid language and describes the comfort represented by the familiarity of routine. The changing tense, from past to present and back again, creates a nostalgic tone that reflects the idea that the family hasn’t assimilated into Australian society.

The house is a stable environment and is a fusion of the past and their life in Poland, and the present and their life here in Australia. It symbolizes the family’s sense of community and cultural identity. A house is a place where the family can adapt to change slowly, their cultural comforts from Poland making the transition easier. “10 Mary Street” explores the effects of the imposed change on the family when they have to leave their house because it’s being “gazetted for the industry.” The destruction of the house represents the destruction of their past and their identity. The bird imagery, “Like a hungry bird,” reflects the transitory passage of the family’s life, and the recurring lock and key image emphasizes the idea that the family has the key to the country since they’ve been naturalized, but no key to the home. The poem provides insight into the destructive consequences change can have.

The complex nature of change is explored in a 1996 cartoon by Randy Glasbergen (above), which satirizesemphasizes the technological revolution of the 20th century. The cartoon comments on the impact and nature of technological change, and the contrast between the perspectives of two generations. The cartoon features a young boy performing a simple mathematical operation “2 + 2” on the blackboard. The complex answer he derives suggests that technology has removed the concept of simplicity and forced us to consider even the simplest tasks in a more complex way. The supporting quote, “In an increasingly complex world, sometimes old questions require new answers” emphasises the upheaval of the older generation’s knowledge. The boy writing the equation represents the youth and the technology literate generation, while the confused teacher represents the older generation who is accustomed to traditional answers. The body language supports the reversal of rolls. with the boy using the blackboard pointer and being in the active role. This text reveals the difficulty of coping with change faced by many of us, especially the older generation who is accustomed to familiar routines.

In conclusion, how change is explored in Looking for Alibrandi, The Conciliation and The National Picture, the poems “Postcard” and “10 Mary Street” and Randy Glasbergen’s cartoon do not vary all that much. All of these texts deal with the capacity for an individual or society to change and the notion of sacrifice and re-evaluation being inextricably bound to the process of change. Change is explored on physical, emotional, social, and contextual levels in these texts, and the composer manipulates and challenged our perceptions of change through the use of vivid imagery and figurative language. Most prominently though, it can be seen that the salient factor of change responsible for these shifts in perspective is those characteristics of change that make it inevitable.

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The Concept of Change in Different Literary Works. (2022, Aug 10). Retrieved from

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