The Divine Wind Analysis
Due to the unpleasant past between White Australians, indigenous Australians and Japanese people, there have long been tensions between these racial groups. These were intensified by the fear and threat of invasion during World War II. In the novel, The Divine Wind, Garry Disher presents readers with a confronting account of prejudice and fear during this time. This is evident through Disher’s representation of the harsh treatment of aborigines and Japanese; furthermore, it is illustrated that everyone is capable of possessing prejudicial views through Disher’s variation of characters.
There are several incidences in the novel where Disher exposes the harsh conduct toward aborigines. One circumstance is when Hart mentions the normality of station masters abusing and mistreating the black stockmen. ‘by forcing recalcitrant black stockmen to dress in women’s clothing’ … ‘docking their pay’… ‘chaining them down on a corrugated iron roof’ (pg. 70). Disher also brings to light the fact that aboriginal women were referred to as ‘black velvet’ and were offered as prostitutes for visitors on stations. He does this through Hart’s character: ‘He [Carl] didn’t lay on black velvet in the visitors’ quarters (pg. 0)’.
Prejudice against aboriginals is also highlighted when Morrissey, an Army Officer visits Hartog Downs with a purpose of sharing his opinions on aborigines. ‘”the Abos are going to be a liability if the Japs land… He’ll guide the Japs through the bush in exchange for grog and tobacco”’ (pg. 77). Many white Australians at the time held similar views due to the paranoia they developed from the war. They were also in support of the White Australia Policy, a policy that was legislated in 1901 and marked the beginning of what we call ‘The Stolen Generation’.
This is also referred to in the novel where Hart talks about Bernadette (the housemaid’s) childhood: ‘She’d been separated from her family when she was little and raised and educated at the Broome convent school’ (pg. 14). Here Disher shows the normality of such circumstances and hints that mistreatment of aboriginals was common. Disher not only demonstrates prejudices held against aborigines, but also those towards Japanese people. In 1941 all Japanese families living in Australia were arrested and taken to internment camps across the country, purely due to the fact that they were of Asian heritage.
This is documented n the novel where Hart refers to the government legislation brought in to intern the Japanese: ‘They interned single women, old men, children… They were marked people now, aliens in our midst’ (pg. 113). Disher not only includes factual information, he also creates spiteful characters through which detestable opinions are expressed. Through the character of Magistrate Killian, Disher expresses the controversial opinions held by many prominent men within Australia. Readers are positioned to loath Killian as he boasts a heinous personality and a derogatory attitude towards everyone except ‘White Australians’.
His discriminatory opinions are proclaimed more than once and each time he protests that the Japanese are enemies: ‘”That pig iron we’re selling to the Japs – it’s going to come back to us as bullets and bombs. You mark my words”’ (pg. 34. ) Through Killian’s character, Disher puts across the prejudices held against Japanese people during WWII. Though it may be thought that only men with authority held these biased opinions, Disher establishes that anyone is capable of these attitudes under the right circumstances. The impending Japanese invasion places tension on each of the characters.
Evidently this is one of the reasons that forces Hart to succumb to his emotions and hold the Japanese residents of Broome somewhat responsible for the war. In the most relevant instance, Hart blames Mitsy, a long time friend and recent significant other, for his sister’s disappearance at war: ‘She’d [Alice] been reported officially missing… just days after we offered sanctuary to Sadako and Mitsy… I felt my face twist. I felt a spurt of burning tears, and said to Mitsy, “You bitch”’ (pg. 130). After the government had begun the internment of the Japanese, the public justified in discriminating against them.
Disher clarifies this when Hart talks about the changes in his day-to-day life: ‘As the war worsened in… 1942, people began to mutter whenever I passed them in the street. One of them even called out to me: “Hey Penrose, I hear you’re running a brothel. Got a pair of Jap whores” (pg. 120). Through these types of characters, Disher competently demonstrates that everyone is capable of embracing prejudice and fear. Overall, Garry Disher’s novel, The Divine Wind provides a confronting account of prejudice and fear. Disher does this by creating a variation in haracters and demonstrates how each of these has the capability to stoop to discriminatory behaviour.
Unfortunately though, considering the social gains made in recent decades to mend the relationships with non-indigenous and indigenous Australians, many people still hold prejudicial views towards aborigines. The Divine Wind serves as a cautionary tale for modern readers about the destructiveness of prejudice and fear. In his resolution, Disher reminds us that the struggle against prejudice and fear is worth it, despite the fact that ‘It won’t be easy’ (pg. 151).