Wandering Girl Essay, Research Paper
From your study of “Wandering Girl”, what insights have you gained about the challenges Glenyse faced as a young person?
“Wandering Girl” by Glenyse Ward tells her story of a young Aboriginal girl living a life of many challenges. She was taken away from her mother at the age of three and was brought up in a Catholic mission called “Wandering” until the age of 16. From there Glenyse went to work for the Bigelows, a white family who lived on a farm in the remote outback of Western Australia. The Bigelow’s house was very grand and luxurious compared to her home at the mission. She thought she would really enjoy living on the farm, however she did not realise how much she would eventually come to hate the place. She was to face many challenges living at the Bigelows including loneliness, discrimination, the loss of her identity and living in unfamiliar and unfriendly surroundings.
Living in the Bigelow’s house was very lonely. It was a kind of loneliness that Glenyse had never encountered. At the mission she always had friends, and nuns and a priest who valued children and lovingly brought her up. However, it was not the same at the Bigelow’s property. Each day felt like years, as Glenyse had no one to talk to. Mrs Bigelow never spoke to Glenyse unless it was to give her orders. Glenyse had very little contact with the Bigelow children and Mr Bigelow, the Mayor of Ridgeway, never spoke to Glenyse. She was their “dark slave” and was to do all their household chores. For a while Glenyse did not have anyone to talk to or to joke with. However, Glenyse did have a sense of humor and guts to pull her through the time. This was evident when Glenyse accidentally killed a turkey. She felt disheartened by the whole affair but was able to think if she was with a friend, the episode of the turkey would not be so bad. They would look at the funny side of things and have a good laugh. However she did find a friend in Bill, one of the Bigelow’s farm hands. He was a kind and caring old man who treated Glenyse as a person.
“I felt very happy that I found a friend he told me to call him Bill and not to forget – If I ever needed him I knew what to do.” (Pg.66)
Glenyse lived in an unfamiliar environment where she was not familiar with the equipment the Bigelow family had in their house. Glenyse had never used equipment like a telephone or a percolator when she lived at the mission and as a result she did not know how they worked. Glenyse was never taught what to do but she was just expected to know. However, if she did not do it correctly Mrs Bigelow called her “A very stupid girl!” On one occasion Glenyse had to take a flask of tea and basket of sandwiches to the shearing team half a mile from the house. Instead of walking right around the road Glenyse thought she would take a short cut straight down the hill and over a makeshift bridge. As Glenyse got half way across the bridge it broke and she found her herself in the water and the sandwiches floating beside her. Glenyse quickly got up and ran back to the house where Mrs Bigelow found her wet and dirty. Mrs Bigelow’s son then pulled up in his car and handed his mother the wet basket and cracked thermos, which he found floating down the stream. Mrs Bigelow then turned to Glenyse in front of her son and yelled at her. “You clumsy, stupid girl! I can’t trust you to do anything- that bridge was made for ducks!” (Pg. 143) Mrs Bigelow always humiliated Glenyse and she made Glenyse feel terrible.
Discrimination was another challenge that Glenyse faced in the Bigelow household. This made Glenyse feel different. She drank from a tin mug whilst the Bigelow family ate and drank from fine crockery. She was not allowed to eat the same food as the Bigelows, for example Glenyse had to eat baked beans when the Bigelows ate cold meat and salad. Glenyse was never allowed to be in the same room as the Bigelows unless she was called for. This was evident when the Bigelow family held a mayoral reception for Mr Bigelow. Glenyse was told to stay away from the house so that she is not to be seen. Her job was to look after Mrs Bigelow’s grandchildren, however they were asleep early and Glenyse thought Mrs Bigelow might need a hand. As soon as Glenyse walked in to the room all the chatter and laugher stopped. One snobby lady said to Mrs Bigelow, “Tracey dear, is this your dark servant?” Glenyse was happy that at last she was getting some attention from people. She did not know that they were indeed laughing at her. Mrs Bigelow quickly escorted her out and as soon as the guests were out of hearing. Glenyse was threatened again by Mrs Bigelow who shouted, “Don’t you ever do that to me again.” Sadly, Glenyse laid on her bed in her room in the garage “and began to hate the place and the people in it.” (Pg.25) She wondered what was so bad about herself. Glenyse did not understand why people treated her differently and why the Bigelows were so mean to her. Glenyse was always treated unfairly and not considered a “person.”
There were many challenges that Glenyse had to face as a young person, but despite these challenges she was able to over come them and make something of her life. I think Glenyse was a very brave person to leave the Bigelow farm and to start a new life. Glenyse realised there was nothing bad about herself. It was the Bigelows who need changing. Glenyse moved on from being a slave and found a real job, working as a nurse in a hospital. There was no looking back for Glenyse. She was her own self, living her own life.