The Shifting Heart Analytical Essay

1357 Words Sep 9th, 2012 6 Pages
‘The Shifting Heart’ Analytical Essay- The use of Symbolism

“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man- the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” (Abraham J. Heschel, Jewish philosopher). Richard Beynon’s ‘The Shifting Heart’ was first published in 1960, and insightfully explores the impact of racism. It is based on the lives of the Bianchis, an Italian family living in the suburb of Collingwood, during the post World War II immigration boom. As a literary device, symbolism is the representation of a concept through underlying meanings of objects. Beynon portrays the message, ‘racism is a result of intolerance, not the specific races alone,’ through the use of symbolism as well as the various racial attitudes of characters. The set
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In contrast, the neighbour on the left hand side of the Bianchis, Leila, is welcoming towards the family. This outlook is stressed also by the fence shared, “The left fence relaxes with an air of friendly dilapidation…” (Act 1 stage directions, p.7). A relaxed fence indicates a relaxed and friendly attitude; a broken barrier between them. Leila is married to Donny, an alcohol abusive and violent husband. They frequently have domestic arguments so when Donny starts to threaten Leila, the Bianchis protect her, “MOMMA: Inside; quick; quick; inside with me.” (p.60). Just as Australia provided a secure sanctuary for Europeans displaced by the violence of war, the Bianchis are replying in kind with an offer of secure sanctuary to Leila, displaced by violence within the home. This action also demonstrates how welcoming and accepting this Italian family is towards others. Clearly, the set of ‘The Shifting Heart’ is vital in demonstrating the diverse racial tolerances and intolerances between the characters.

Secondly, the frequent reference to the use of the harmonica is symbolic to the impact of racism on characters. At the beginning of ‘The Shifting Heart’, Poppa Bianchi plays ‘Santa Lucia’ on the harmonica, but later changes to ‘Waltzing Matilda’ when a dead fish is thrown onto his lawn. The first tune, ‘Santa Lucia’ is a traditional Italian song with an up-beat tempo, while ‘Waltzing Matilda’ is a ‘fair dinkum’

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