Topic: SociologyIdentity

Last updated: February 11, 2019

For Billy, the journey from Wentworth the Bendarat becomes the catalyst for the transformation of his attitude towards adults.

This is achieved through his encounter with Ernie, the driver of the freight train. A shift to Ernie’s perspective allows us to see his caring nature towards Billy seen through the colloquial language in his invitation to ‘Make a cuppa if you want’ and the simplicity of his instance that Billy ‘Keep warm’. The reader can see the positive effect this has on Billy’s outlook as he states, ‘There are men like Ernie and there are other men, men like my dad’. The diction of ‘other’ in his comparison highlights that Billy can now recognise that there are adults in the world who are capable of showing affection. As Billy alights from the train in Bendarat, he gifts Ernie a bottle of champagne he stole from his father.

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The inclusion of his note to Ernie which reads, ‘Thanks Ernie. Here’s a present to launch your boat’ shows Billy’s transformed thinking. With this new mindset, Billy enters into the world of Bendarat with a sense of hope for the future which is communicated through the symbolism of the weather with the ‘sun finally lifting the fog’. From this we understand that through the physical transition from his old home to this new town Billy acquires a renewed sense of self.

Like Billy, Lian has a key experience which acts as a catalyst for her transformation. This occurs through her transition into university life where she engaged in a ‘short film project’ in which she deliberately ‘wanted to have a kissing scene’. As hinted at through the title of the memoir, Lian’s ‘first real kiss’ becomes a turning point in her life as she was able to outwardly express her sexuality. Moving into the world of university opens up opportunities for Lian to meet a woman who allows Lian to express herself as a lesbian. During the film making process, Lian finally feels comfortable enough that she ‘confessed to her’ that she’d never been kissed. The simple sentence, ‘She didn’t blink’ communicates Lian’s sense of shock that the woman didn’t react negatively; in fact, she reveals, ‘And then we kissed’, going on to describe the moment as ‘bliss’.

The medium of a memoir allows for the use of first person through which Lian is able to frankly communicate how ‘Writing and performance have been outlets’. Furthermore, through contrast we see that the once ‘suppressed and ridiculed’ identity of Lian is now ‘accepted and applauded’ and this shows that ultimately her transition from a restricted childhood in Malaysia to an expressive university life in Australia is a positive, transformative experience. Both Billy and Lian expose the ways in which moving into a new world, whilst fraught with difficulties, provides individuals with the opportunity to transform their lives in ways they never thought possible when they were younger.


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