Thea Astley’s It’s Raining in Mango 1987 is a story of Australian history told through five generations of the Laffey family. Astley introduces several issues to the reader that were and still are part of Australian society. Through the use of narrative techniques including characterisation, narrative point of view and naming, Astley is able to position the reader to challenge such societal ideologies, and instead support the thoughts and ideas expressed by the strong and dominant characters in the text. Two issues developed in the text are race and gender. Throughout the text, the white colonists are very racist towards the Aboriginals.
Even cattle, horses and white women are placed hierarchically higher in society than the black people. In response to this, Astley constructs all narrations to be written through the eyes of the Laffey family, who are respectful towards Aboriginals, hence not racist, and despise societal ideologies. By making the narration of the text show a biased point of view, readers are provoked to think and feel the same way, foregrounding racism shown in the ideologies of early Australian society, and showing that Aboriginals are real people and should receive the same treatment to that given to white people.
They looked human, they had all your features. ” pg 27 There was, however, one section in the text whose narrative point of view was not given by a character in the Laffey family. This instead was given by a voice of an Aboriginal woman, when the Aboriginal children were being taken away from their families. By giving voice to the Aboriginal society, the reader is able to get a glimpse of their point of view on the matter, which once again shows that society was racist, and Aboriginals were treated harshly.
Another narrative technique used to bring forward the issue of race is naming. By using harsh names to describe racist white people, it made Aboriginals seem a far ‘softer’ race. An example of this is Block, the white concreter who began a brawl in a pub in Mango. By using a name such as this, Thea Astley positions the reader to see Block as a hard, cold, strong male, and is also seen as an object instead of a person. Also by showing that Block is a concreter, this reinforces the thought of him being a ‘bad’ person, as he is ‘cold and hard as concrete’.
Then, when Block is compared to Billy, Billy is seen as innocent and gentle, and is favoured above the white people. “Sobbing, Billy ran back to the flattened shapes, and was felled by Block, who had been winding up another stool like a spring. He was a madman, screaming as he flailed. ” pg 202 By allowing the reader to feel empathy towards Aboriginal characters, it further provoks the reader to challenge the hegemony of societal ideologies, just as Thea Astley had planned. Character deployment is another narrative technique used by Thea Astley to show the issue of race.
By introducing the Aboriginal characters to be the opposite of what the societal ideologies believed them to be, such characters were portrayed and perceived by the reader to be fair, hardworking citizens of society, and thus looked upon as good people. An example of this is the character deployment of Billy Mumbler. Thea Astley constructs Billy to be considered a ‘paragon’ by the reader, this meaning that Billy is “a character who is shown as perfect, saintly or civilised ‘in spite of’ his or her race. ” Writing Critical Essays â€“ Race, pg 164. Astley does this by using words describing his class level and work ethic.
The good qualities that Billy possessed overruled the fact the Billy was an Aboriginal, and had just been released from jail. “He had only the clothes he stood up inâ€¦was a hard worker. ” pg 189 Also, by saying that Billy had been put in jail for being a tax dodger as opposed to a ‘harsh’ offence, for example drug abuse, the reader feels empathy towards Billy, because he could not have escaped the situation. “How could Billy be a tax dodger? â€¦Billy had never seen a tax return until the arresting officer showed him one. ” pg 187 Characterisation was also used to construct the issue of gender.
Throughout the five generations mentioned in the text, the characters live in a patriarchal society. In order to challenge this societal ideology, Astley deployed and constructed certain characters that were not the stereotypical male or female as early Australian society expected them to be. An example of this is Cornelius Laffey. Cornelius Laffey is a Canadian journalist, and is the starting point to the Laffey generations. His character showed many feminist qualities, which Astley used to challenge the gender expectations in early Australian society.
Cornelius never considered himself to be a digger as most men in early Australian societies were, and disagreed with the racist actions that the other men took, for example when the diggers began the ‘dispersal’ of the black natives. Another gender expectation that Cornelius challenged was the expectation that men were always to be the providers in the family. Cornelius challenged this when Nadine gave birth to a baby boy. “One September morning when the baby’s howling was more than he could bear, he slipped quietly from the house and boardedâ€¦for Brisbane, leaving Jessica Olive and the childrenâ€¦and was not heard of again for forty years. pg 54
This shows that Cornelius did not want to always be the strong character in the family, and, instead of staying and supporting his family, he fled from all of his problems without looking back. Another example of character deployment that challenged societal ideologies of gender, is that of Jessica Olive. Jessica Olive, Cornelius Laffey’s wife, is a very strong character, and challenged patriarchal dominance in a large way. When writing about Jessica Olive, Astley purposely kept her maiden name, as opposed to changing her last name to Laffey when she married Cornelius.
This shows that Jessica Olive was characterized to be a strong female character, and does not want to be categorised as being under the power of men. The character of Jessica Olive also challenged societal ideologies of gender through the thought that women were expected to look and act their best when around men. “Jessica Oliveâ€¦undid her own sweating neckline and, despite the grey line of diggers traipsing alongsideâ€¦hitched her skirt up to the knees for a little air. ” pg 27 This shows that she did not worry about societal expectations, but instead acted on her own behalf, and did what she felt comfortable.
Astley has written It’s Raining in Mango as to show the reader how life was in early Australian society. She develops this postcolonial view by presenting several issues relating to early Australian society, such as race and gender, and constructing these through the use of narrative techniques including characterisation, narrative point of view and naming. I feel that through Astley’s construction of such issues, I have become more aware of these occurring in today’s society, and also see how important it is for people to act on their own will and opinions as opposed to following societal ideologies.