English critical response
“How does the poetry of Robert Gray explore the theme of identity?”
Identity is what something is, the way you think about it, the way it is are viewed by the world and the characteristics that defines that person, place or thing. It is not initial and doesn’t always stay the same over time. It can be founded by beliefs, qualities and experiences. Robert Gray explores identity through his poetry, specifically: “North Coast Town” and “Diptych”. In the poem “North Coast Town” he describes the characteristics, concepts and experiences and the changes in coastal towns. The poem takes the place of someone who may not have much money. The poem contrasts the past and present of coastal towns and how the development and modernization have affected our Australian culture. The poem “Diptych” explores personal identities and aspects of personal experiences. Gray reminisces about his childhood and his parents and the aspects and identities of his past self and the components of identity can be triggered and create a person’s identity.
In the poem “North Coast Town” Gray tells us of what he thinks is happening to Australian coastal town and how they are becoming too developed and compares them to America and the effects of development. He tells us “we pass bulldozed fields. The place becoming chrome, tile-facing, and plate-glass: they’re making California” using imagery he compares the Australian town to a very developed American city. Gray tries to tell us that if we continue to do major developments we won’t have very much natural areas left. Gray enforces his thoughts on how he feels about how we are changing our Australian culture and destroying our natural environments and how we are staring to idolize America. In “North Coast Town” imagery is used often throughout the whole poem. In the lines,” We pass bulldozed fields”, “Greasy fifties pompadour” and “pass an Abo, not attempting to hitch, outside town.” And more can be seen. Gray also uses a some of metaphors like; “They’re making California” and “A car slows, and I chase it.” this is to state what is happening around him and how barely happens but bad things in the coastal towns. The poem also features a few similes such as; “the RSL, like a fancy-dress pharaoh; the ‘Odeon’,”.
Gray also uses his experiences and goes into personal identities in his poem “Diptych” and tells us about his childhood and his parents. He portrays them as a Diptych to compare and contrast his feelings towards them. His mother is portrayed as a carer and has a caring nature as said in the line; “And yet my mother never ceased from what philosophers invoke, from extending ‘care’,”. In the line “Her care you could watch reappear like the edge of tidal water in salt flats, about everything.” Gray also uses similes to better his audiences understanding of abstract ideas. Gray uses juxtaposition to compare his father to his mother throughout the rest of the poem using a negative tone on him and calling him a “drunkard” (meaning that he was drunk most of the time and would stay out late at the pub drinking) which is also emotive language to put emphasis on the ‘waiting’ in the line which shows how often his mother waited for his father and extends his thought on her identity as she has caring nature even though trouble will lie ahead, even though he would often come home drunk. Robert Gray gives us an idea of his father’s personal identity; “Whereas, my father only seemed to care that he would never appear a drunkard.”. “I had long accepted him, who had shown me the best advice” He admits that he wasn’t all bad but had some major flaws.
A motif is seen throughout the poem “Diptych” as a motif, in art is a dominant or recurring idea. As a diptych is a form of artwork, a diptych is any object with two flat plates attached at a hinge that use the same theme and compare or contrast the theme. The poem follows this idea of an artwork showing that half the artwork portrays his mother and the other half his father in the form of a poem. The theme he has used in this poem is his childhood. A motif can also be found in the poem “North Coast Town”. It uses imagery through most of the poem to give the audience a clear understanding of what’s happening in the poem. The poem tells the audience that development of our coastal towns is damaging the coastal environment. This is also developing and changing the identity of coastal towns as they develop further and do more damage to the environment.
Robert Gray shows identity throughout his work by telling his experiences and stories to the audience through the form of poetry. His uses a wide variety of poetic technique to enforce his thoughts and experiences on both of the poems “North Coast Town” and “Diptych”. In “North Coast Town” he expresses him compassion for the changes and how development is changing the identity of coastal towns. In “Diptych” he tells the audience the experiences he went through as a child and how he developed an identity for both of his parents as his mother was a caring person and his father a “drunkard” and a hatful type of person. This is how Robert Gray explores identity.