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In Jane Harrisons play Stolen Essay

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In Jane Harrison’s play, ‘Stolen’, the characters of Ruby, Anne and Jimmy are utilised in order to position the audience to feel sympathetic towards those affected by the ‘Stolen Generation’. Through her plot Harrison is able to demonstrate the pain faced by the characters. Furthermore, through her script, she is also able to show the mental disintegration of the characters throughout time. Therefore, it is imperative to examine the ways in which she has used these particular facets of her play in order to rouse the emotions of the audience.

Jane Harrison utilizes the script of the play ‘Stolen’ to position the audience to feel sympathy for Anne. Anne is an aboriginal female who, adopted at a young age by a white Australian family. Anne was chosen by the white couple because ‘she was by far the best’ (THE CHOSEN pg 7). Anne is seen to have a ‘good upbringing’ (THE CHOSEN pg 7) compared to the other characters in ‘Stolen’. She receives a ‘sense of security’ (THE CHOSEN pg 7) and ‘a good education’ (THE CHOSEN pg 7), but Harrison reveals to the audience that Anne has to confront problems that none of the other characters have to face.

Later on in the play, Anne is confused when she asks the question ‘Am I Black or White?’ (AM I BLACK OR WHITE? pg 28). Anne is torn between her origin and the people she has been brought up with.

Harrison demonstrates this theme of ‘not belonging anywhere ‘through the script. Phrases such as ‘We’ve given you everything’ (AM I BLACK OR WHITE? pg 28) opposed to ‘But we’re your real family’ (AM I BLACK OR WHITE? pg 28). Harrison creates a binary opposition between the aboriginals, Anne’s blood and race, and the white Australians. Anne is rejected from both families, thus being rejected from everyone she knows, not belonging anywhere. Therefore, Harrison presents her view to the audience that even though Anne was better of materially compared to the other characters she had to experience a different type of pain that the other characters in ‘Stolen’ do not have to encounter. Harrison portrays the message that all children of the ‘Stolen Generation’ suffered, physically and/or mentally.

Harrison uses the character Ruby to show the audience how mentally affected a child from the ‘Stolen Generation’ can be. Ruby was taken away from her family at a young age, just like many other children of the ‘Stolen Generation’. Harrison positions the audience to see that Ruby had to go through hard times as a child in the orphanage. In the scene ‘UNSPOKEN ABUSE 1’ (pg 8), Ruby has come back from a weekend away with a white family, the other children are curious and ask Ruby “What else did ya do?” (UNSPOKEN ABUSE 1, pg 8), and Ruby replies with “Promised not to tell” (UNSPOKEN ABUSE 1, pg 8). The audience does not know what happened to Ruby on that weekend but by the language Harrison has used, it seems that whatever actions that occurred on that weekend had affected Ruby had changed her. Harrison shows the audience in ‘RUBY COMFORTING HER BABY’ (pg. 9), that Ruby was an ordinary girl who played ‘with her doll’ (RUBY COMFORTING HER BABY, pg. 9).

This same scene also shows the audience the horrible memories that Ruby have in her young mind, as Ruby is nurturing her doll, she seems like she is pretending to be her own mother and the doll being her. Ruby tells her doll ‘I love you Ruby’ (RUBY COMFORTING HER BABY pg.9). When Ruby grows up and leaves the orphanage, she goes and works for a white family. One day, her family come to visit, but it is revealed to the audience that Ruby is mentally disabled and is not well. Ruby’s family want to take her home but Ruby replies “Don’t live in no home any more. I work for the Hardwick’s” (RUBY’S FAMILY COME TO VISIT, pg. 31). It is clearly shown that Ruby cannot see that those people are her family. Harrison displays to the audience that in Ruby’s mind, Ruby believes that she has no family, reinforcing the fact that the children of the ‘Stolen Generation’ suffered immensely. Harrison shows the audience throughout the play, the downfall of Ruby’s mental state

Jimmy is a character in the play ‘Stolen’, who is an aboriginal male who has experienced pain throughout the play and this is shown through the play with the Harrison’s use of the plot and script. The character Jimmy spent his childhood years in an orphanage. The audience see that Jimmy had been brought up with no parents, just like many of the other characters in ‘Stolen’. Like Ruby, Jimmy goes away with a white family for a weekend and comes back changed, more timid than before. Jimmy grows up and leaves the orphanage he enters a bar and some indigenous people recognised him as ‘Wajurri’ (JIMMY’S STORY, pg. 27), and they said they knew his mother. Jimmy comes to visit her but before he can meet his mother, she dies. Jimmy is so devastated that he kills himself to finally ‘go meet my mother’ (SANDY AT THE END OF THE ROAD, pg. 36).

The characters Ruby, Jimmy and Anne have many similarities and differences throughout the play and Harrison uses these similarities and differences through the script and plot. Both Ruby and Anne eventually meet their families. At the end of the play, Anne is accepted by her aboriginal and white families, feeling a sense of belonging towards both of her families. The audience see that Ruby is become completely insane and even though she faces her family, she does not believe that it is her family and goes back to work. Jimmy does not get to meet his family. When Jimmy is grown up, he discovers that his mother is alive, but when he comes to visit her, he finds out that she has died. This was extremely traumatic for Jimmy, and he couldn’t endure the grief and resorts to ending his own life.

Jimmy, Ruby and Anne all faced mentally enduring events at some point in their lives. But only the only happing ending out of these three characters is the one of Anne’s. Ruby’s end is a more tragic one, as she is permanently scarred from the events that have occurred to her in her life. Jimmy also suffers a tragic end as the he commits suicide. Harrison depicts the harshness and undergone by both of these characters. Ruby and Jimmy’s upbringing were very dissimilar in comparison to Anne’s, Anne living in a family that cared and provided for her, was contrasted by Harrison, towards Jimmy and Ruby’s lifestyle. Both Jimmy and Ruby were brought up in an orphanage with other aboriginal children whose families were also taken away from them.

The play ‘Stolen’, written by Jane Harrison shows the audience the hardship undergone by the characters, Ruby, Jimmy and Anne. Though they are different in many aspects, these characters share the pain of not knowing where to belong and this is shown by Harrison puts forward this idea through her use of the plot and the script.


Harrison, Jane. Stolen. (3rd rev. Edition) Strawberry Hills: Currency Press, 2007

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