Distinctive voices are part of our everyday life and can be expressed in many ways. This is not always projected through speech and language. It can be intrinsic and is inherent in any text. This is particularly helps when reviewing The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender by Marele Day and related film Miss Congeniality directed by Donald Petrie. Both these composers have created a variety of distinctive voices in the texts. The most distinctive voice within the novel the life and crimes of Harry Lavender is that of Claudia Valentine. Claudia’s voice is both unique and original. She is unique and hard-boiled and works as a private detective which is very much a male dominated workforce. She is short and sharp as seen in the quote “no one gets in my room …. let alone my bed” which is expected of a person in this role.
Despite this hard outer shell we see her vulnerable side when talking to and thinking about such characters as Steve Angel where she is far more colloquial. Day uses an inner monologue and techniques such as similes to show this. “Eyes like the pools you find beneath waterfalls. It was all I could do to stop myself from taking my clothes off and diving in”. This could be interpreted as her sexual attraction towards Steve and shows her private voice and enables the audience to see her vulnerability. Contradictory to this, is the hard-boiled public voice which she uses in her work and makes her appear less vulnerable. This is illustrated through her comfortable use of jargon such as in the quote “The crims don’t discriminate anyway: they’ll blow away a woman on their trail as readily as a man”. Similarly to Claudia, Gracie Hart, in the film Miss Congeniality, is a woman working in male dominated, FBI workforce.
Hart goes undercover in a Miss United States beauty pageant to prevent a serial killer of bombing the event. Like Claudia, she is also hard-boiled and has a tough external persona. She is very much work orientated and is not interested in her looks and the way she is perceived. This is shown through a mid shot where Gracie says “cos’ I’m not going to parade around in a swimsuit like some air-head bimbo”. This enables the audience to interpret the view that she is rough. On the contrary to Claudia, Hart is not as short and sharp in her language and often uses informal colloquial language. She uses expressions such as “yeah”; “bimbo” and “cos” which makes the audience identify her as a careless FBI crime fighter whose only objective is that of catching the criminal. Gracie also has a softer side to her. This is displayed through her relationship with co-worker Eric Mathews. An example of this is a mid- shot at the end of the movie where Gracie and Eric kiss. This makes her somewhat similar to Claudia’s persona in that Claudia’s softer side is also shown through her relationship with Steve Angel.
Both characters – Claudia and Gracie – display a public facade of toughness whilst exhibiting a private side that very few see. The distinctive voice created in The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender can similarly be seen in Barak Obama’s “Yes We Can” Speech. The voice of Obama is sharp, positive and sophisticated manner. His voice has been made distinct through his use of anaphora “I saw crumbling schools… I saw shuttered mills… I saw what America is…” the repetition “I” reinforces the idea that he is not corrupt, not manipulative of the political system as his main concern if about making America’s future a better place. This similarity to Claudia’s voice shows as she is also short and sharp and wants to protect people from the vicious underworld of crime. Day has created a distinctive voice for Harry Lavender despite him remaining anonymous throughout the whole book. Day cleverly allows Harry to have a voice despite none of the other characters actually meeting him.
This technique, including interludes through first person narrative from the perspective of Harry Lavender is effective and allows the reader to hear his view. His arrogant attitude towards his underworld fame can be seen through these interludes in the quote “The premier is there and all my friends…The media too, filming faces in the crowd”. This shows that he believes that his funeral will be grand and everyone will come out to see him. Lavender’s voice has been made distinct through the use of imagery and extended metaphors. The imagery used to describe the moment he was separated from his mother shows that she was taken away as he was born “the cord in blood then unravelling like a whimper as the grey soldiers close ranks behind her”. The use of imagery shows his egotistical nature. The Voice of the city is displayed constantly throughout The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender. Day constantly personifies this throughout the text.
The quotation “Darling Harbour where buildings with the eyes gouged out had been demolished to make way for development” displayed in a mid shot is one of many examples with which Day uses to personify the city. This technique clearly conveys the view that Day feels the soul is being eliminated from the heart of the city and being replaced with a superficial facade instead to hide the corruption within. Day also constantly personifies the city describing it as a “moody child… (that had) been a sickly child, poxy and plague-ridden. But she had grown strong, like a mushroom on a dung heap” The use of the simile “like a mushroom on a dung heap shows that Day views the city of Sydney as corruption covered by more corruption. Day uses the voices of Harry Lavender being an underworld overlord, and Claudia Valentine being an old fashioned detective as well as the voice of Sydney itself to convey her ideas on the city.
This is comparable to Miss Congeniality in that, what is usually regarded as a prestigious and glamorous beauty pageant event is tainted by an under layer of crime within the institute. Various forms of lighting are used to flaunt the pageant. This is used extensively throughout the beauty contest which is commonly displayed with bright lights. In contrast to this is at the end of the movie when it is found out that the pageant organiser is behind a plot to kill one of the contestants and steal the crown. She is displayed in a dark lighting in the final fight over the detonator. Both texts use various techniques to convey the common idea of a superficial facade which has an under layer of corruption and crime. Barack Obama’s speech also highlights America’s current corrupt system which he plans to change.
The use of emotive language used by Obama was to create empathy from his story “The mother who can’t get Medicaid to cover all the needs of her sick child” this was to reinforce and emphasize the fact that the current system is corrupt and failing the American people. Another technique used by Obama is the repetition of “yes we can” which is a positive voice that unites the American people that he is the right person to lead and take the nation forward and create a more equitable society. The use of repetition has been used to emphasize and reinforce the point of being able to change and have a better and positive future.
This can similarly be seen in “Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender” as the city itself is undergoing a transformation “where buildings with the eyes gouged out had been demolished to make way for development for the men of power to build monoliths to themselves”. Distinctive voices are created in various ways through different characters and techniques. This is displayed extensively through The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender by Marele Day and related text Miss Congeniality directed by Donald Petrie. The characters which helped shape our understanding of distinctive voices include Claudia Valentine, Gracie Hart and the voice of the City. Through these characters we gain a greater understanding of voices displayed throughout the texts and the effect with which each one has on the overall plot.
Courtney from Study Moose
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