Looking For Alibrandi Essay, Research Paper
A major discovery that Josephine Alibrandi made in Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi, was about her Grandmother’s past life. She discovers many things about her Grandmother, including how she got to Australia, her relationship with her husband and that with Marcus Sandford. At the beginning of the novel Josephine was unaware of these facts about her Grandmother. However as the story unfolds she gradually discovers her Grandmother’s history.
The author includes at intervals in the plot conversations between Josephine and her Grandmother. These allow the reader to enter into Josephine’s discoveries regarding her Grandmother. During one of these talks with her Grandmother, the young girl learns how hard life was for migrants in Australia.
Nonna Katia tells Josephine how hard it was for her being in the middle of an unknown country with nobody who spoke the same language as her. Furthermore she tells of her encounters with hardships such as snakes coming into the house! She says to Josephine on page 114, “You do not know how much I hated Australia for the first year. No friends. No people who spoke the same language as me.. they were not the good old days, Jozzie.”
Through the discovery of her Grandmother’s past Josephine also discovers how lucky she really is to live in the time she did. Although she has her own trials because of her ethnicity, Josephine realises that these are nothing compared to the loneliness and uncertainty that Nonna Katia would have felt. She says on page 117, “I just sat there, glad that I live in these times.. I don’t think I could ever handle the quiet world she lived in.”
Another important discovery which is threaded throughout the book is Josephine’s discovery on the whole issue of sexual relationships. We can see throughout the novel there is great pressure from Josephine’s friends to have a sexual relationships. She is always hearing about the sexual relationships the people around her are having and is often made fun of by Sera, one of her best friends. Talking about Sera, on page 137, Josephine states, “I mean she knows I’m a virgin.. but still she continually loves to make digs.”
Despite this pressure, Josephine discovers that her whole identity is not based on having sexual relationships. Marchetta uses the relationship between the characters of Josephine and Jacob Coote to develop this discovery. Josephine sees that sleeping with someone isn’t everything because after she refuses to sleep with Jacob Coote their relationship still continues on good terms.
Josephine also discovers the difference between true love and just physical attraction. On page 213 she says, “But I don’t know if I love you enough and I don’t even know if you love me enough. Here she shows her discovery that although she is physically attracted to Jacob she doesn’t know if it is real love that she feels for him.
Towards the end of the book Josephine finds out from her friends that sexual relationships, as they experience them, are not all that great. On page 255 Lee tells Josephine, “I just said it wasn’t as great as people make out and to answer your question, Josie, you would’ve felt guilty now if you’d slept with Jacob.” This statement from her friend most likely would have finalised Josephine’s decisions and lessons she had learned about sexual activity and relationships.
Probably the most important discovery Josephine Alibrandi makes in the novel is about her own multiculturalism. On page 234 she describes the confusion she felt when kids in primary school used to ask her what her nationality was. If she said she was an Italian they would tell her she was an Australian because of where she was born and if she said she was an Australian they would tell her she was a ‘wog’ because of what she looked like. She writes, “and I wanted to kill myself because I was so confused.
She shows her uncertainty and frustration in not being totally Italian and not being totally Australian either because of the relationship her Grandmother had with Marcus Sandford and also the relationship her mother had with Michael Andretti. On page 219 Josephine expresses her desire to be either one or the other nationality. She admits, “Now all I want to be is an insignificant Italian in a normal Italian family.
Throughout the novel however, Josephine seems to sort out her frustration and confusion, as she makes discoveries which help her to do so. She realises that she and her family are not just one nationality but are both Australian and Italian. She knows that she cannot totally escape her Italian culture, “simply because like religion, culture is nailed into you so deep you can’t escape it.”(page 175). She also realises that they have fit in well as Italians in Australia unlike other ethnic people. On page 202 she says “A different Australia emerged in the 1950’s. A multicultural one, and thirty years on we’re still trying to fit in as ethnics and were still trying to fit the ethnics in as Australians. I think my family has come a long way.” Near the end of the book Josephine shows her conclusions and certainty about her identity. On page 258 she states ” I’m not sure whether everyone in this country will ever understand multiculturalism… But the important thing is that I know where my place in life is.” A few lines along she shows that she is now proud to be an Australian that has Italian blood in her. ” If someone comes up and asks me what nationality I am, I’ll look at them and say that I’m an Australian with Italian blood flowing rapidly through my veins. I’ll say that with pride..”
One lesson that Josephine learns or a discovery she makes, especially through the life of one of her friends, John Barton, is about the importance of social standing and wealth in ones life. At first she thinks that because John comes from a wealthy family who is well known and is top of everyone in everything, he doesn’t have any problems compared to her. She thinks she has many more problems in life because she is given a hard time about her ethnic background and she is of very low social class. She begins to realise however that being of high social standing doesn’t make your life easier. This discovery starts when John tells her, ” It’s different for you, you haven’t got any pressures in life. I’ve always had to be the best because it’s expected of me.”
She shows that she still doesn’t fully understand that wealth and high social class doesn’t make someone happy, when John dies. She says on page 234 “How dare he kill himself when he’s never had any worries! He’s not a wog…..how could somebody with so much going for him do that?” Again she is told by Michael Andretti that she is wrong in thinking that wealth and social class have anything to do with happiness. He says “A person doesn’t necessarily have to be happy just because they have social standing and material wealth Josie” (page 235). This input from yet another character helps her in her discovery of the truth in this area of life.
She seems to have finally learnt this lesson when she is talking to Jacob Coote and says, “I’d hate to be as smart as John. I mean he was really, really smart and to be that smart means you know all the answers and when you know all the answers there’s no room for dreaming.”
1. “Dream life in Australia turns sour for migrants” – non-literary, newspaper article from The Age, March 1992.
A newspaper article called “Dream life in Australia turns sour for migrants” from The Age describes the disappointment and hardship a family who migrated from Argentina to Australia, faced. The family tells how they were told wonderful stories about work in Australia but went there and could not get a single job interview in the husband’s profession. Ms Rauber, the mother and wife of the family says, “We left our country, our families. We came to Australia to start a new life for us and our children.” The author of the article, John Masanauskas writes, “Ms Rauber explained how the dream turned to a nightmare”.
The Rauber family, mentioned in the article, would have experienced much the same trials as Nonna Katia experienced when she came to Australia with her husband.
This article highlights some of the areas of discovery which Josephine made regarding her Grandmother and her earlier life. In the novel Josephine discovers that life was very difficult for her Grandmother on arrival in Australia. This compares to the Rauber family’s experiences.
The article emphasises the fact that immigrants to Australia always face great difficulties, especially initially. This matches what Josephine discovers about her Grandmother’s first days in the new country.
2. “No sex please, we’re waiting” – non-literary magazine article from the Australian, New Idea, January 1999.
This article discusses the pressures that young people face in the area of having sexual relationships before marriage. While doing this it emphasises the better way of waiting till marriage to have a sexual relationship. This article supports the discoveries that Josephine Alibrandi made about sexual relationships.
One part of this article says “As a youth worker, Martin says he is alarmed by the strong sexual pressures young people are facing. A lot of young people feel left out because the kids in the popular group are out there having sex.” These pressures that Martin is talking about are the same ones that Josephine faced from the people around her, particularly from her friend, Sera.
Martin, continues on to say; “It’s important for teenagers to realise that their identity doesn’t come from how popular they are, who they sleep with or how much pot they smoke”. Josephine does realise this after refusing to sleep with Jacob Coote and seeing that their relationship was not broken right there and then.
This same lesson that Josephine learned about the difference between real love and physical attraction, was one learned by Jason Stevens, another person mentioned in the New Idea article. In it he writes, ” Now, I’m learning about love and respect, rather than just having a physical relationship.” In this way the article underlines the discovery which Josephine makes in the novel, by showing it is a discovery made by many people in the real world.
3. “Insight, Muslims in Sydney” – non-literary visual documentary on SBS
This documentary highlights the discovery of the problems and pressures involved in the issue of multiculturalism. Within this broader area of discovery the viewer discovers the difficulties faced by Muslims in Sydney, Australia. It shows how young Muslim people from Lebanon in Australia are often treated badly by the police and other Australian citizens. Although these Muslims regard themselves as Australians, the people around them often treat them as if they don’t belong.
The documentary supports Josephine’s discovery about her own multiculturalism in Looking For Alibrandi. The problems that are faced by the Muslim people in Australia are very similar to the problems that Josephine faced. In the same way that Josephine was made fun of because of her Italian background, the young Muslims shown on the documentary are often verbally abused and sometimes even physically abused because of their religion and nationality.
Just like Josephine, these people talk like Australians and act like Australians and regard themselves as Australians yet others around them push them around because they look a little different from the average Australian. This can be very stressful for these people. Similarly, Josephine became depressed and frustrated when trying to determine her identity in her community. On the documentary one girl conveys the difficulty she faces and says, “You’re just not used to people pushing you around all the time.”
Another similarity in this documentary to Josephine’s discovery is that many of the young Muslims in Sydney realise their multiculturalism and are proud of this aspect of their lives even though it is sometimes difficult. Another Muslim girl says, “Culturally or nationality I’m not actually sure what I am, but I’m more Australian than anything”. This comment is very similar to what Josephine says about being Australian with Italian blood flowing through her veins.
4. Oral Presentation by Mrs V. – non-literary, visual. Presented at Ukarumpa International School, May, 1999.
Mrs. V came to speak to our class. She is an American who had Sicilian grandparents. In her presentation Mrs V described much of her life. Her life was very similar to that of Josephine’s and what she said related directly to Josephine’s discovery on her cross or multiculturalism.
Because of the similarity of conditions in which Mrs V grew up in compared to Josephine’s upbringing, many of the cultural, social and religious practices were done by both their families, for example “tomato day”. Also because of these similarities, Mrs Vanaria faced many of the same difficulties that Josephine faced.
Mrs V struggled with identity due to her multiculturalism just like Josephine. She mentioned to the class “Somewhere in there you have to define who you are since you are neither a Sicilian born Italian nor of the White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant culture that is the basis for stereotypes of Australians and American. Our culture lies in between and it is appropriate that it be defined as something in between as well.”
Her words shared with our class showed that she like Josephine discovered that with her type of background and life, she is neither one nationality or another. She is in between.
5. At Seventeen by Janis Ian – literary, song
In this song Janis Ian seems to be looking back on her own life as a seventeen year old. In it she describes enviously, piers who always had the boyfriends while she was left at home dreaming about what she hoped for, because she was as good looking and affluent as these other girls. She sees that because these girls have good looks and plenty of money, they are set up for life with guaranteed husbands and incomes.
The truth that Janis Ian learns at seventeen contrasts the truths or discoveries that Josephine makes when she is seventeen. In her song Janis Ian writes, “The rich relationed home town queens, marries into what she needs: a guarantee of company and haven for the elderly.” Here she is saying that people of high social standing and wealth have somewhat of a guarantee of happiness. At first this is what Josephine Alibrandi thinks when she looks at people such as Ivy Lloyd and John Barton. She thinks that because these people have money and social standing they shouldn’t have a worry in the world because their lives are already set out perfectly for them.
A significant discovery that Josephine makes, however, is that this is not a true generalisation. She discovers that social standing and material wealth do not determine happiness. She learns this from John Barton whose misery despite his social advantage, leads to his unexpected suicide. This discovery contrasts to what Janis Ian sings about. This discovery is in keeping with her statement at the very end of the novel, “you keep on learning truths after seventeen.” (page 260 Alibrandi) unlike Janis Ian who seems to say that she learned the lessons that were to remain true for the rest of her life when she was seventeen. “I learned the truth at seventeen.”
6. Colour Bar by Oodgeroo Noonucal – literary, poetry
This poem is written by an aboriginal who sees the huge wrong in the way people with brown skin are made fun of and treated unfairly because of their skin colour especially children. In his poem he is questioning why people cannot see the wrong in this and why they cannot see that God made everyone equal no matter what their skin colour is.
In the poem Oodgeroo writes, “Could he but see, the colour-baiting clod, is blaming God, who made us all, and all His children He loves equally.” This line, in showing what other people do not see reveals what Josephine did discover. In this way there is a contrast between the two texts. She discovered how important her ethnic background really was to her. How important all the Italian traditions her family held and the close family ties she had, were to her.
Josephine sees that not everyone will understand or appreciate her ethnic background, in the same way that Oodgeroo Noonucal saw and agonised over the fact that other people did not treat people of different colour skin with equality. Although other people might not see the value in her multiculturalism or ethnicity, Josephine discovered it and became proud of this aspect of her life. She shows this when she says “[I'll] say that I’m an Australian with Italian blood flowing rapidly through my veins. I’ll say that with pride.”