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White And Ety Uses Stereotypes To Promote

Cross-Cultural Tolerance Essay, Research Paper



Christobel Mattingley’s White and ety was first published in 1973. It is a concise and clear short story that explores racial tolerance throughout its narrative. The story is about a young ‘quarter cast Aboriginal’ male and a young ‘albino’ and the development of their friendship in the face of other people’s racial intolerance. The text has stereotypes, which permeate throughout the story, and they are used to relate the theme of cross-cultural tolerance. It is effectively written and clearly displays the concept of tolerating difference instead of accepting it.

Christobel Mattingley has written many other texts about racial issues, which suggests that she has a high level of awareness and interest in racial interests and racial injustices. Christobel Mattingley’s values and attitudes are clearly portrayed throughout this story. She conveys her moral thinking and her viewpoints through the characters’ thoughts, actions and dialogue, opening a gateway to her opinions and reflections on the theme. The phrases ‘inevitable tragedy’ , ‘callous treatment of the Aboriginals’ and ‘bitter injustice of their fate’ strates her awareness of the plight of Aboriginal people and her strong feelings about the treatment they have received. She displays the concept of cross-cultural tolerance using direct comments and comparatives between common stereotypes.

White and ety is written from an omniscient point of view. It is almost as if there is a god-like figure within the text which is used to describe the characters thoughts, using phrases such as ’she thought’ . In doing this Christobel Mattingley provides the reader with adequate information to evaluate the characters and interpret not only the general theme but also the hidden values, attitudes and messages within the genre. This link between ety’s and White’s thoughts, and an objective view via the narrator, aid in delivering the theme. The author does not empathise with either White or ety allowing the reader to evaluate and interpret the text freely.

The short story uses both rounded and flat characters to explore the theme of racial tolerance. The use of flat characters and generalisations such as ‘the others broke away’ represents stereotypes that reflect on the rounded characters. The flat characters are the ‘near forty class members’ , whilst the rounded or more developed characters are White and ety. Mattingley effectively implements a range of flat characters using phrases like ‘people began to tease’ to invoke images of isolation and to create undertones in the text.

Witchety used to live in England where she was not teased as much because of the different stereotypes prevalent in that ure and the lack of available stereotypes about Aboriginal people. However, when she migrated to Australia she was referred to by other children as a ‘witchety grub’ because of her ’silky white’ skin colour. The phrase ‘Charles (White) gave no indication that he was even aware of the social patterns and processes evolving about him’ illustrates that he had had very different experiences to ety. However, he was still subject to racial intolerance because he did not fit the Australian ’sunburnt, tough and tousled black hair’ stereotype.

Christobel Mattingley’s use of symbols such as ety’s ‘red socks’ and Charles’ ‘dark rusty brown jumper’ , throughout the narrative are effective in displaying White and ety’s thoughts and feelings. She uses the symbol of the red socks to show that ety has an inner voice and that she is conscious of her thoughts and of other people’s actions. However, the teachers in their school do not comment on their lack of school uniform and this suggests intolerance of and disinterest in them as they fail to acknowledge their deviation from school rules. It is almost as if they are too inconsequential or inferior to remind of common expectations.

The story’s setting and plot revolves around several pivotal events. It is clear in describing that ‘Witchety had no close friends and Charles was a loner’ and focuses on promulgating the theme of tolerance without an extended narrative. The characters eventually come together because they are both different from their classmates and perceived as social outcasts. Their friendship develops through their taking time to view Aboriginal art works at an exhibition, when the rest of the class rushes past the exhibits. The denouement, ’so ety became aware of Charles’ , is finally exposed leading to the point of illumination or epiphany whereby ‘he took her by the hand and led her back to the waiting bus’ . The theme of the story is not automatically delivered but can be interpreted through the text until the narrative reaches the point of enlightenment or resolution.

Christobel Mattingley has cleverly woven the theme of racial tolerance and intolerance throughout the story using comparatives between stereotypes and the actual facts about the main characters to strate the damaging and hurtful effects of intolerance on individual children.

Kia Kelly-Hollin

May 2000

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