Divine Wind explores racial discrimination and the inherent

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					Divine Wind explores racial discrimination and the inherent (inbuilt)
prejudice in Broome during the 1940’s.’ Discuss.


The Divine Wind, a novel by Garry Disher set in Broome is an
exploration and examination of themes such as racial discrimination
and the inbuilt racial prejudice Pre and Post-World War II. The novel
examines the issue of racial discrimination and the inherent
prejudice labelled as racism. These themes were a part and parcel of
the mindset and values of the majority of Australians in Broome and
Australia in the 1940s. Although, The Divine Wind exposes and
scrutinises the confronting issues of racial discrimination and the
inherent prejudice through racial intolerance and fear, the novel,
also explores into the goodness of the human condition through
characters like the protagonist Hartley Penrose and his father,
Michael. But their noble values do not last, as they too gradually
change into introverts of racist feelings and thoughts.

The Divine Wind explores the overt racial discrimination that was
endemic (widespread) in the Australian white society in Broome and
Australia, primarily in the 1940s. The blatant nature of racial
discrimination is directed at Aborigines and Asians by the majority of
the white population in Broome. Aboriginal character
representatives in the novel like Bernadette, Saltwater Jack and
Derby Boxer are shown as part of Broome’s society that is down-
casted into being servants or fulfilling physical work. In the case of
the arrest of Derby Boxer, even the police were discriminative and
prejudiced, like Constable O’Neil fabricating evidence by making
Derby sign a false statement admitting guilt in his ‘supposed’
confession of a sexual assault on a teenage girl. Furthermore, Jamie
Killian’s father, Mr. Killian the newly appointed magistrate, even

dismisses outright Michael Penrose’s argument that Derby Boxer
could not have signed the statement in educated English, as he could
only speak a form of basic ‘pidgin’ English. There are also other kinds
of racial discrimination and prejudice suffered by Aboriginal people
highlighted in the novel.

The kind of racial discrimination and the prejudice forced-on the
aboriginal community by Carl Venning and his friends are based on
ignorance, fear and arrogance. Firstly, the racial discrimination and
the racial prejudice that Carl Venning, Major Morrisey and the
Webbs impose on aboriginal people is an ignorant and arrogant
position that they take; as they belief that whites are superior by
virtue of their skin colour. Secondly, their rural mentality of
ignorance and arrogance is fanned by the fear of seeing Aborigines
as a threat to their own position as land owners or lease holders. It
also seems natural for them to behave badly and act with suspicion
towards aboriginal people, as all land, including pastoral land were
once a part of the aboriginal land, which then brings instability to
their position as leasers of pastoral land.

In addition, the novel explores the ignorant and arrogant kind of
racial discrimination and the inherent racial prejudice of Carl
Venning, Major Morrissey and Lester and Olive Webb towards the
aboriginal people revealed by Hartley on the nature of racism
inflicted on servants and aboriginal community as a whole, “Your
black fellow can’t make ethical or moral distinctions” (page. 73),
“Your Abo is unreliable ... He’ll collaborate. He’ll guide the Japs
through the bush” (page. 76) and “You won’t find this written down
anywhere, but if the Abos caused trouble we can shoot them, no
questions asked” (page. 78). However, Aborigines aren’t the only
race discriminated through prejudice by the white majority of
Australians in the 1940s, but also the Asian population.
The racial prejudice in the novel is bitterly directed towards Asians
like the one directed towards Mitsy by Hart’s mum- Ida Penrose with
a dismissive attitude “I think it’s time you went home, don’t you?”
(page.19).This argument maybe debatable, but Ida Penrose’s
dismissive attitude and her rudeness clearly hurt Mitsy Sennosuke.
Ida Penrose with her English sensibility does not want to belong or
interact in the Broome’s racial melting pot. She is a racist in that
regard, and as such, is very dismissive and rude to Mitsy. Her feelings
about the Aborigines and Asians are steeped in prejudice, as they are
deemed racially inferior and only good enough to be servants, and in
the case of Asians, they are also foreign. In contrast, her embrace of
the Killians’ as ‘superior’ like her simply because of Mr. Killian’s
position as a magistrate defines her social snobbery that is ingrained
in the belief of being superior and refine. Although the novel
explores the negativity of racial discrimination and prejudices of the
white society in the middle of the 20th century, it also does, however,
examine a hint of goodness of the human spirit and compassion in
the racial melting pot of Broome.

The goodness of the human spirit and compassion is explored
through the initial carefree friendship and a sense of justice and
fairness in a few characters like the main protagonist Hartley
Penrose, his sister Alice and father Michael. The initial carefree
friendship of the teenagers Hart, Alice and Mitsy ‘running around’ in
the racial melting pot of Broome and their disregard for racial
discrimination and prejudice is an endearing value, for example
when they decided to help Derby and take him home on the
occasion when Derby is drunk in the cinema, albeit sleeping it off in
the front row of the cinema is of course an endearing value of
goodness of the heart, “It was slumped awkwardly in the middle of
one of the front rows, which had been set aside unofficially for

Aborigines and Islanders” (page 17) . The goodness of the human
spirit and compassion, however, does not last, as circumstances of
the war become personal and turns good men like the introvert Hart
and Michael Penrose showing their true self as unhappy introverts
and their subtle racist demeanour towards the Japanese.

Characters like Hart and his father Michael Penrose are complex, and
initially had good moral values providing support and sanctuary of
their house for Mitsy and her mother Sadako Sennosuke during the
internment of the Japanese Australian population. But the goodness
of the heart of Michael Penrose and the introverted adult narrator
Hart Penrose, however, changes when the war become personal to
them both, as they dreamed the unimaginable when they didn’t hear
any news from Alice. The personalise tension of war when Alice goes
missing makes them have a begrudging and lingering racist tendency
towards Mitsy and her mother Sadako, as though they are to be
blamed for the war and Alice’s disappearance. By focusing on Hart’s
and Michael’s character flaws and their fall from grace to racial
discrimination and prejudice, the novel highlights and explores the
issue of racial discrimination and inherent prejudice in the behaviour
of the majority, including the subtle lingering racist behaviour of
good people like Hart and Michael towards the Japanese like Mitsy
and Sadako in their house in Broome in the 1940 as depicted in these
scenes, “as though he sensed two shadows behind him-two lithe
killers, not an old woman from Broome and her daughter” (page 124)
and “I thought that if I cure the hatefulness in me we could love
again’ (page 126) when the war affects them personally.

In conclusion, The Divine Wind by Garry Disher is an examination of
racism of the Australian white society which is steeped in racial
discrimination and inherent prejudice in the 1940’s. The author
explores the nature of these racist elements being not just confined
to ignorance, arrogance and fear of anyone that is different, but also
the changes that occur to people with a sense of fairness and
goodness of the heart. The author contrasts the appalling behaviour
of the majority of the white Australian society towards the
Aborigines and the Asian population with some good decent
Australians with good values like the introverted Hart and Michael
Penrose. But they too eventually succumb to the pressures of the
war and the tension it creates around them, particularly when the
war becomes personal. The goodness and moral values of justice and
a sense of fairness in these characters disappear, as they start to
behave like the majority in The Divine Wind.


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