Old Black Jacko Poem Analysis

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C.J. Dennis’ poetry in A Book for Kids (1922) exhibits a text that was emblematic of 1920s Australian literature and values. I have transformed the poem Old Black Jacko into an interview with a female indigenous health care worker in contemporary society.

The base text is a true representation of the values, and thus the literature, of 1920s Australia – a society struggling with the assimilation of the native people into white society after colonialism and Federation, the social organisation of the patriarchy typical to Eurocentric culture, and a system based on capitalism. The era saw the distinctive divide between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples grow as the Australian soldiers of WWI returned home victoriously, the non-indigenous
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The first obvious difference is the genre, where the base text’s genre is a poem and the transformed text is an interview. I abandoned the phallocentric undertones in the base text by creating a contrast and assigning the two protagonists in the transformed text an obviously female gender. I removed the colonial features of the text through the adoption of a postcolonial energy in both the questions and answers. I kept the basis of the protagonists title ‘Old Black Jacko’ but transformed the essence of it, changing it slightly to ‘Old Black Jackie.’ I did this to highlight the blatant connotations of racism in the base text, but also to draw attention to the fact that the reclamation by indigenous peoples of offensive titles and linguistics used in a derogatory manner against them is not considered offensive or politically incorrect. I transformed the protagonist’s view on smoking from one of support to one of disapproval. I did this to challenge the stereotypes constructed by non-indigenous peoples that generalises that all aboriginals smoke. While this stereotype was partially confirmed through the statistics offered by the protagonist in the transformed text, her negative stance on the matter as a health issue challenges the stereotype because she is disagreeing with a generalisation of her own

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