On the black hill family and identity Essay
On the black hill family and identity
The fact that they remained bachelors, despite Lewis’ desperate longing for a woman in his life, is also the work of Mary, who, knowing that Benjamin will never want to marry, made Lewis promise “never to marry unless Benjamin did too”. Lewis is identified by his love of aviation and longing for adventure, but he is tied down by family obligations. He is aware that his life would be different if not for the inescapable bond binding him to Benjamin, stating “Sometimes, I lie awake and wonder what’d happen if him weren’t there…
Then I’d have had my own life, like? Had kids? ” Ironically, it is his family that sets him ‘free’ in the end and satisfies his desire for an heir and an adventure. This comes in the form of Kevin Redpath, the twins’ long lost nephew, who comes back to inherit the farm and also give Lewis an opportunity to do what he had always desired, to fly an aeroplane. These “ten magnificent minutes” completes the missing part of Lewis’ identity, and “all the frustrations of his cramped and frugal life now counted for nothing”.
No other family is described in such detail as the Joneses, but their neighbours, the Watkinses from ‘The Rock’ also shows how a family-style group affects the identities of the individuals in the family. The Watkins family is a rather complicated family, for Tom and Aggie Watkins can not have kids of their own and hence resort to adoption. The Watkinses show that despite having no biological ties, the family environment can also affect the characters and lives of individuals.
The Watkins family is a typical poor low-class Welsh family, and the adopted children consist of Jim, Ethel, Sarah, Lizzie and Brennie hence turn out to be uneducated children, “If anyone said, ‘He was raised at The Rock’ , or ‘She was reared at The Rock’, you knew for sure the child was illegitimate or loony. ” This shows that the family environment plays a big part in who they are, and how other people view them. In the end, Sarah, Lizzie and Brennie all marry off and escape from The Rock.
Lizzie “pretended The Rock did not exist”, and while Sarah still kept an eye on The Rock, “her one great fear was of lapsing into poverty”, clearly a fear born out of her experience of childhood poverty. Lizzie and Sarah are examples of the opposite way which family can affect children; instead of falling into the patterns of the family themselves, the children choose to escape and fear these patterns. This opposing respond to family pattern is also evident in David Malouf’s Fly Away Peter, where Jim Saddler fears of inheriting his father’s ‘savagery’ and tries to keep it “at arm’s length”.
On the other hand, Jim’s biological children seem to inherit his traits. For example, Ethel’s son Alfie was identified as Jim’s son for “the lad had Jim’s carroty hair and cauliflower ears”. Alfie also “grew up simple”, the result of inheriting the combination of both Jim and Ethel’s mental disabilities. As the novel progresses, Jim has another child, this time Mrs. Musker’s. His daughter Meg is even more like him; she grows up to share his love for animals, mistrust of outsiders. She even speaks like him, and clings to The Rock with fierce determination and optimism.
Like the twins, Meg’s identity is shaped greatly by her parent, and she continues his way of life even after his death. The Bickerton family is one of the more minor families in On the Black Hill. A high-class English family, the Bickertons owned the Lurkenhope estate and hence was possibly the most powerful family in the village. In contrast to the Watkinses, the family environment of the Bickertons is wealthy, refined, and educated, and hence the children of Colonel and Mrs. Bickerton, Reggie, Nancy and Isobel, are naturally identified as figures of the higher class.
As a result, Reggie grows up to be an arrogant and overly-confident young man and went “to war with a head full of chilvaric notions of duty to caste and country”. These “chilvaric notions” are most likely the influence of Colonel Bickerton, who has been persuading all young men to fight for their country. Even after coming home crippled, he “made light of his injuries with upper-class stoicism” and his high-handed treatment of Rosie Fifield shows that his arrogance hasn’t changed.
On the other hand, his sister Nancy Bickerton shows traits of Mrs. Bickertons; like the way her mother seeks companionship in Mary, Nancy is bored by the gentry and finds great pleasure in the twins’ visits. Even the way she offers tea to the twin reflects her mother’s; “China or Indian? ” Nancy is hence another example of an identity shaped by her parent and upbringing. Thus the identity-shaping forces of family are quite evident in the families of On the Black Hill.
These are clearly portrayed through the characters of the Joneses twins Lewis and Benjamin, whose identities and lives are clearly shaped by their order of birth, their roles in the farm and the house, the traits they inherit from their parents, their upbringing, as well as their bond to each other. Their way of living even after the death of Amos and Mary reveal how the impact of these family dynamics can last forever, also portrayed through the way Meg or Nancy each inherit their parents’ traits and behaviours.
On the other hand, these impacts can also have an opposite effect, as shown by Lizzie and Sarah in the way they try to fight against the Watkinses’ family pattern of poverty-stricken lives by leaving The Rock. Through On the Black Hill, Chatwin patently demonstrates the relationship between one’s identity and family, reinforcing the notion that our families make us who we are today. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Miscellaneous section.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 10 November 2017
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