This is similar to Brett; the protagonist in Scott Monk’s unconventionally written novel ‘Raw.’
We first meet Brett at his umpteenth time of committing a crime. On his journey to his latest institution; ‘The Farm’, we learn of his negative attitude and surprise of being sent to a ‘federation-styled homestead’ instead of a ‘concentration camp patrolled by Dobermans and gun-toting guards.’ His negative attitude to authority is exemplified by constantly referring to the police as ‘pigs’ and similies like ‘Cops and food go together like pigs and slop.’ Sam is the symbolic role model who initiates Brett’s reform, he offers his hand for a handshake, but Brett declines the offer. This symbolises his reluctance to change from his former self and habits. Scott Monk has deliberately put this theme of binary opposites in the novel, to show how different the experiences are on individuals on different sides of the rules.
When Brett first meets the other ‘criminals’ occupying ‘The Farm’ he is shown two different paths he can follow while there; he can follow the rules and rely on the institution for support and be like Josh. The other option is to have a blatant disregard and disrespect for the rules; and turn to violence as the answer to everything and be like Tyson. Brett is always at crossroads and does not show any change until the end of the novel, where he is put in a position where he must choose what path he wants to lead in life.
‘The Farm’ does not use solitary confinement or violence as a form of punishment towards the boys, instead they are enforced upon the individual i.e. When Brett drink drives and crashes the Ute, he is punished by doing chores such as ‘…pulling out weeds…’ and ‘…scrubbing the rust off oil drums….’ Brett does not prefer to do such chores because he knows he is already being sent back to Sydney for breaking the law. Another way is by punishing the whole group for an individual’s action, this leads to the individual harassment and negative victimisation towards this individual i.e. Brett tries to escape and is victimised by Tyson and his ‘group’ who shave the hair off his head for the fear of losing privileges.
The symbolic affects of before and after ‘The Farm’ is represented by Rebecca and Caitlyn. The significance of Rebecca proves that Brett is only semi-rehabilitated; Rebecca symbolises Brett’s continuing path to crime.
Caitlyn’s personalities of being conservative and conformist replicate the path that Brett’s life will lead to if he abides to the rules while staying at ‘The Farm.’
It is because of Rebecca that he is sent away and Sam tells him ‘only you can change ur life.’ This is the main theme to the whole novel, and has been put in deliberately by Scott Monk. He does this because he knows that his book is aimed at young teenagers and he knows that it will attract the attention of a lot of young teenagers because of its contents; rebelling amongst the whole world because ‘…it hates you…’, fights, sex and run-ins with the law.
Dissimilar to ‘Raw’, ‘Shawshank Redemption’ a film directed by Frank Darabont, is set on themes focusing on the negative effects on the individual while in prison. ‘Shawshank’ focuses mainly on physical abuse and punishment, this is seen in the fourth scene when Warden Norton is laying out the rules; ‘…no blasphemy but verbal and physical abuse is condoned.’ ‘Shawshank’ is different to ‘Raw’ because it can be seen that, the guards physically abuse the inmates.
Also; the plot of ‘Raw’ is that the change is within the individual, but in ‘Shawshank’, the plot is to keep the criminals inside the dull grey walls away from the emerging and colourful society; ‘There is only 3 ways to spend money on prisons: more walls, more bars, more guards.’ This piece of dialogue is ironic because the warden himself is in charge of a money laundering scheme throughout the prison, this is only possible with the help of the smart Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins). This operation leads Andy to find sarcasm in saying that ‘On the outside I was an honest man, straight as an arrow, I had to come to prison to be a crook.’ This is an individual effect that Andy has had because of the institution; he has become a criminal.
There is a belief that if an inmate has been in a prison for too long they rely upon the institution and become institutionalised i.e. Brooks; he served his 50 year sentence and throughout that time he is the prison librarian; ‘…outside he is nothing.’ Upon leaving the prison he is given a place to stay and a job at ‘Food Way.’ He doesn’t like how the world has changed so fast and all he wants to really do is ‘…get a gun and rob the ‘Food Way’ so they would send me home.’ _Home_, he refers to the prison as home, by being away from a growing society, the institution has left him with a negative effect of being confused and not knowing anything about the outside world, but relying on the support of the institution.
Brooks was rendered so incapable of independent thought and human operation in the world that he committed suicide. This portrays how ‘Shawshank’ has become the opposite of rehabilitation and shuns out the beliefs of hope and ever getting out of the high; stone walls. Just like it did to Red, when Andy tries to explain how he can never become institutionalised, Red replies with: ‘Hope is a dangerous thing. It can drive a man insane.’ This explains how in ‘Shawshank,’ redemption is a hard thing to find. Redemption is the improving of something, but if inmates are _hoping_ to _improve_, will they find redemption?
Richard Neville’s article ‘Come on, kids dare to resist’ published by The Sydney Morning Herald on the 3rd of May 2004. Outlines how the ‘selfish gen Xers are more afraid of losing their credit cards than losing the planet.’ A ‘gen Xer’ is a person born on Earth anytime between 1965 and 1980. Richard Neville is a man who doesn’t want technology to rule our worlds, he is a hero to some and an enemy to others, his views are more futuristic, he is very concerned to where the future is headed and how we will get there. He himself is portrayed as the institution here, it is his views that make a lasting impact on people, the reason – he is well known for his publicity.
When commenting on a recent protest about young university students wanting lower fees he says this; ‘The students have a point about the fees, but why can’t they get upset about other people’s problems?’ He is referring to the war in Iraq. He wants the young students to look to the positive side and see that they have the education that they are taking for granted; the education a person their age in Iraq is deprived of even if they can afford it. These youngsters in Australia do not understand how lucky they are to be friends with America and not enemies like Iraq.
His political based comments do not stop there; ‘As for the future leaders of Australia, the strapping young professionals, the entrepreneurs, the trainee philosophers, where are they? Locked up with mortgage brokers, every one.’ See how he predicts a positive effect and job prospects towards _all_ future leaders of Australia and by saying that they are ‘Locked up with mortgage brokers, every one.’ He is emphasising that they are experiencing a negative effect from their institutions and are becoming institutionalised by not being able to reach for that final goal; they can see it, but they can’t have it. This is just like Brett in ‘Raw’ he wanted to be like Josh, but couldn’t because he could never leave his old habits behind him. This can also be related to Andy in ‘Shawshank Redemption’, he could see himself outside the prison in New Mexico, but he was restricted by the greed and abuse of human rights. So he chose to break out and reach his goal, even if it was giving the institution a reason to finally keep him there.
Now readers the task is upon you to judge from what you have read here, go read ‘Raw’ and go watch ‘Shawshank Redemption’, I have only expressed to you my opinion of these two excellent texts and their analysation of different institutions and their effects. It is now your turn to experience the self-discovery of how you lead your life and how the institutions around you lead their occupant’s lives. It is also an incredulous opportunity that today’s HSC students are able to study this subject more thoroughly.
It is because of this elective in year 12 English classes that the young adults of tomorrow can see where their futures may be heading and know now that there is always time for reform and change in their habits. Studying such socially active topics at school will prove useful in their future lives, as it will help them understand how they should deal with problems they face from institutions that they may come across in their life. Might I also add to keep a watch on Richard Neville, he has some intriguing predictions about the future on his website:
Courtney from Study Moose
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