– Down At The Dump Essay, Research Paper
Patrick White ‘Down at the Dump’
Patrick White, most noted for his longer works of fiction, exemplifies his craft of storytelling in his short story ‘Down at the Dump’. White has dramatized an event in life, such as a funeral, and given us a very believable insight into our own culture. Some readers will take offence to such a raw and truthful portrait, while others will find humor and hope in the same story. White is a writer who crafts a story with such intensity, that at times it slaps you in the face with the truthful, dirty, honest depiction of his characters. All of whom we can see something, if not the smallest little detail of our selves in them.
‘Down at the Dump’ counterpoints two families, and their journeys on an afternoon. One of the families is off to the funeral of Mrs. Hogben’s sister Daise. The other family the Whalley’s, off to the Sarsaparilla dump, for busness and pleasure ‘I thought the beer was an excuse for comin’.’ (Isba pg.8) ‘Down at the Dump’ is also a modern day Australian Romeo & Juliet, the forbidden love between Lummy Whalley and Meg Hogben. Both it seems are destined for more then what is expected of them. The story is also a comment on the staid middle-class lifestyle, the petty bourgeois existence of the suburbs. The story is also a comment on the sexually non-conformist such as daise’s character represents, more about this later. The story is also a comment on standards, principals, morality, values and judgmental and discriminatory behavior.
White pays attention to the dirty, honest characteristics of human beings, “Her eyes were that blazing blue, her skin that of a brown peach. But whenever she smiled, something would happen, her mouth opening on watery sockets and the jags of brown, rotting stumps.” (pg.1) This serves to give the readers a deeper understanding of the characters right down to the bone. This typical descriptive passage is common in white’s writing. It cuts to the core of the character, shedding light on a side rarely taken by an author. A gritty and honest sense of reality is achieved.
“Down at the Dump” is a story revolving around binary oppositions, a set of contrasts. The two main families, ‘The Hogben’s and Whalley’s’ are the two main constructs of White’s direct opposition. This opposition is nowhere more visible then in white’s use of language when giving his characters a voice. Whites characters speak from the heart. Their own use of language reflects directly their class and education. For example – the Whalley’s speak from the heart, with a distinctly working-class accent.
“Ere!?waddaya make me out ter be? A lump of wood.” (Isba pg.1)
We get a sense very early in the story, by the way the Whalley’s speak, a direct reflection of their socio-economic background. White’s use of language when describing the Whalley’s is derogatory and intentionly off putting. This is contrasted in direct opposition to the Hogben’s. Who are described through their slightly more capable use of the English language. This helps enforce them as being worth more in a snobby middle-class way.
This direct opposition is again contrasted to another level. For although White uses harsh, dirty, honest language when describing the Whalley’s, we cannot help but feel empathy with them for their honesty. The Whalley’s seem truthfully real and direct people, yet crass and crude on the outside. This is the opposite for the Hogben’s. The Hogben’s use of speech is much more educated. Although they are described with nice, fluffy, sensitive language, I am filled with contempt for them. Meg being the exception she is one of white’s poetic seers; someone who is destined for more. The domestic abodes of the two families are also a symbolic representative of their different socio-economic position and different way of life.
Our story takes its journey to the funeral and the dump respectively where towards the end of the funeral serves daise rises from the grave to relinquish her thoughts and feelings. It is about here in the story that the passage I will be discussing indepth occurs.
It is through Daise Morrow that Patrick white chooses to make social commentry through his authorial voice. The ideological concerns of the story are quite clear in this passage. The passage I will be referring to starts midway down page 16 ‘Even if their rage grief, contempt, boredom, apathy, and sense of injustice had not occupied the mourners?to?as she got in side the car, and waited for whatever next.’ (Pg.16-17)
The passage I will now be examining starts with a comment by white’s authorial voice. The omniposent narrator ‘Even if their rage grief, contempt, boredom, apathy, and sense of injustice had not occupied the mourners?’ this is a direct comment that the religious proceedings, was not in the forefront of the guests. It seems that this sermon from the dead is falling on def ears all to caught up in their own hypocrisies and superficialities. White is commenting here that the townspeople, disconcerted by the death of the ” loose woman in flora cotton.” are more concerned with their own position in society, and how people view themselves and others view them.
White arranges the framework of the story around a shifting Point Of View. The story moves from the Whalley’s perspective, to the Hogben’s. From there it moves on to a family of no real importance, Horrie and Georgina Last, shifting back and forth until the resurrection of Daise Morrow. White cleverly uses this technique of each family commenting on the other, to give the reader valuable insights and help the reader empathize. However we must not for get that in doing so White is in some way controlling how the reader interprets each character, everyone brings their own experiences to every story they read.
One of the more significant ideological concerns White chooses to comment on is that of sexuality, intimacy and love, as being a social construct. We observe this through glimpses of this certain behavior in each family. The Hogben’s are shallow, anal people. This is no more evident then when Les reminisces about pushing up against Daise in his hallway, denying there was any sexual intention what so ever. We as reader can make up our own minds about that.
Daise’ rise from the grave is significant to white’s concerns about intimacy, about people following their hearts. Daise, White’s heroin or mystic seer, has a will to create her own freedom, above the social constraints of her sisters middle-class conformities. This is nowhere more evident then in her haunting comment from the grave towards the end of the section I’ve been discussing.
“Truly, we needn’t experience tortures, unless we build chambers in our minds to house instruments of hatred in. Don’t you know, my darling creatures, that death isn’t death, unless it’s the death of a love? Love should be the greatest explosion it is reasonable to expect. Which sends us whirling, spinning, creating millions of other worlds. Never destroying.” (Pg.17)
The story finishes with a glimmer of hope. Maybe a budding relationship between Lummy and Meg, each I feel is destined for something more out of their lives. A life where honesty, like that of a first kiss, takes precedence over learned social behaviors.