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“Black Diggers” and “The Longest Memory” Comparative SAC Notes

Quotes on the human spirit

“The Longest Memory”

The human spirit in the longest memory is primarily symbolized through Chapel and Lydia who
embody the theme of hope for change in a new generation coupled with the dawn of the older

 Forgettting (Whitechapel) “What you shout in your sleep is a young man dreaming”
“Something that cannot be possessed; that will remain confined to the realm of sleep, fantasy”
Just as D’aguair explores the theme of hope, conversely he also explores the theme of hopelessness
and the effect it can have on the human spirit. The death of Chapel symbolizes the short term death
of hope for change in the novel and Whitechapel is portrayed as a broken man.

 Lydia “This is the day I open my eyes and realize how foolish I have been. Foolish and selfish. I
have taught him to read yet he cannot write his own name”
Throughout the novel, the idea of the human spirit and resilience is explored. The human spirit
embodies the fundamental idea that we are all capable of more than we realize possible. Lydia’s
realization is a profound embodiment of the human spirit and the ability for people to change their
beliefs and values, underpinning the key theme of hope for a brighter future which is reoccurring
through the text.

 Cook “My master’s pot is full of the sweetest things which my hands will touch but my belly
won’t see. Yet my pot is sweeter. Sweet because I take from it and and fill two plates for the
people I love, my husband and my son”
 Cook “I want to summon some disdain before I tell him what I saw and heard but all I feel
inside is pride, not fear, not yet; just pride”

 Cook “I am his mother. I can;t say ‘Son’ books are not for you”, “I will not do it nor will I get my
husband to do it”

 Lydia “At what point do I stop hearing the words and realize I am in love with it’s cadence?”
The theme of love can be related to the human spirit as throughout the novel, it is not only Lydia’s
progressive and opens views which establish her relationship with Chapel but love which eventually
forms the basis of hope for a brighter future

 Lydia “Chapel I want to say, all my memory is yours”, “I will devour father’s library for you”

Despite being banned from seeing each other, Chapel and Lydia’s forbidden love is recurring
reminder to the reader of the power of the human spirit and inherently what it means to be human
and well as giving a key reason to continue to live and fight regardless of adversity.

Chapel and Lydia’s forbidden love is a key element of the story used by D’Aguiar to embody literary
hope for change in “The Longest Memory”

 Lydia “I wish you were white. It is a miserable time to be me. I wish I could be with
Chapel”-Hope for change

 Lydia “I swallow my rage and persevere”

Lydia “Chapel says he will write verses for a living. Verses for the birthdays of dignitaries”
“Verses for the death of prominent citizens. Verses to commemorate the anniversary of this or that
institution or brotherhood. Verses for a gentleman to woo his lady” -symbolizes faith in human
nature, oneself

“Verses of religion. Verses, verses, verses”

 Lydia and Chapel’s dreams of a brighter future are embodied through the dreams which Lydia
and Chapel share of moving to the North. Lydia and Chapel’s dreams are lucid and their hope
for the future naive yet optimistic symbolizing D’Aguiar’s message that hope can exist even in
the face of seemingly impossible odds.

 D’Aguiar stresses through the personal hopes and dreams of Lydia and Chapel that hope for the
future is necessary for perseverance, when one’s cause is dangerous or impossible.
 D’Aguiar encourages hope for the future through the younger generation of Lydia and Chapel,
critically through the theme of forbidden love.

 D’Aguair presents not a stereotypical sense of upbeat hope but a more complex discussion of
hope, the integral relationship it has with the human spirit and the way the characters In the
novel lead their lives.

 Lydia “this is the world we find ourselves in. We have to learn to live with it otherwise we will
be miserable and bring trouble tumbling on our heads. I understand father I understand

Lydia’s quote here is a reflection of the theme of resilience and how the plantation owners attempt
to subjugate the slaves by attempting to break their spirit both physically through violence but
psychologically through deprivation of education and ignorance.

Whitechapel “Memory is pain trying to resurrect itself”

“Black Diggers”
Hope in “Black Diggers” is similarly presented theatrically by Tom Wright through characters as
illustrated in “The Longest Memory”. The theme of hope for change is presented through the
younger generation who join the army in the hope of earning respect and acceptance when they
return home, this is highlighted through the theme of naivety and sense of optimism which Bertie,
Nigel and Archie have in the first half of the novel.

1917 Frying Pan Creek NSW

 Mum “and you reckon you can waltz around with the white boys do you? That they’ll make life
easy for you, suddenly your their dearest black mate, suddenly you’ll be a man and a white one
at that? That the doors will open for you? Do you?”

 Bertie “yeah you know what mum? Yeah I do something like that”

In this section of dialogue Wright seeks to highlight the fundamental theme of hope for change
which is present in bot Black Diggers” and “The Longest Memory” through the differences between
the younger generation and the older generation
Bertie’s mother ‘mum’ remains cynical and distrustful, in contrast Bertie is willing to take a chance
and trust the Europeans and fight for the new concept of Australia in the hope that he will achieve
equality for his people

 Grandad “we’ve been fighting for country for a long time now”

 Bertie You’ve told me about this pop, I know. No it’s all fences, we’re fenced. But this isn’t just
about us..it’s about a bigger world”
Wright again highlights the fundamental differences between two generations to explore the idea
of hope and faith in oneself but more importantly trust in the Europeans and “the same boot which
have been kicking us for years”

 Bertie “They need lads, for the first time they need us. Changed the rules made it easier for
Critically, the theme of hope is also portrayed through the songs in the play such as “The world’s
turned upside down” featuring lyrics highlighting the optimism of the aborigines for change such as
“The white man needs us colored boys now”, and “Here in the shit every face is brown” (1916
Indian Ocean)
“Sons of the Southern Cross” also symbolizes the themes of hope for change through its optimism
and upbeat tone in the backdrop of the fomation of the young commonwealth and the young
country called “Australia”

Human spirit
1949 Glebe Town Hall
Bloke with a glass of wine (Aboriginal) “Thank god for the army. Thank God for the uniform and
the chance to serve. Because when I was a whippersnapper and I first joined up I was just a
woebegone failure. And in the army you earn your way you take on dignity. A dignity perhaps that
no one was going to let you have back home”

Mick “for you the war’s over. What’s starting to dawn on me is that for us the war is never going to
Archie “I thought things would change after the war”

Old Hand “why? Why would things change? The only thing around here that’s changed is you”

Archie (letter) “Dear Aunty May”, “I am good. I say my prayers like you tell me to and you were
right, there are Methodists here and we read the scripture” –Power of literacy


“...I must exhort you to grant full citizenship privelages to every one of us colored soldiers who
voluntarily wore his majesty;s uniform in active service”, “we do not wish to remain humble and
servile to the Aborigines protection board”

1929 Forest Lodge Sydney

Nigel “Sir , news of the outrage perpetuated in the Northern Territory last year requires the
strongest possible condemnation from all Australians who have a inclination of skerrick of christian

“surely we did not go through the mud and blood of foreign fields to continue a darker purpose at

The human spirit is actively portrayed through songs and correspondence throughout “Black
Diggers” Wright makes use of songs to highlight the mood of each phase of the storyline including
the emotion of hope, optimism, fear, grief and loss experienced by the soldiers during and after the
Wright seeks to portray the optimism and pioneering spirit of the aborigines however conversely
the absence of hope is also explored through the themes of isolation and abandonment.

Nigel’s letter is an example of the human spirit at work, constantly fighting for a better future,
relentless persistent.
Similarities and differences between “Black Diggers” and “The longest Memory” on
the human spirit.

Black Diggers Longest Memory

 Wright presents the human spirit through  D’Aguiar illustrates the power of the
the struggle of the aborigines against human spirit through the theme of love
injustice and primarily through the (Forbidden love between Chapel and
themes of trauma and memory Lydia as the basis of new hope in the
 A key section in which this is highlighted dawn of an older generation)
is in the “correspondence” section,  While Wright presents the human spirit
featuring multiple excerpts of letters through the themes of suffering and
written to the state government trauma experienced by the Aborigines
department of lands, which are “pages of during world war I, D’aguair paints a
letters fall from the sky. Men stand in more grim view of the human spirit
pools reciting their missives” through the futility of the situation which
 The human spirit is also portrayed the slaves find themselves in
through the theme of naivety and the  Human spirit-emphasized through power
sense of optimism prevalent throughout of literacy and ability to learn-Lydia
the novel in songs such as “sons of the
 Chapel is empowered through literacy
southern cross” and “The world’s turned
and with the help of Lydia, Literacy
upside down”-hope
becomes an instrument to resist

Why does the author construct the text in this way?

Black Diggers-Wright deliberately structures the history as “a patchwork quilt of history” in contrast
“The Longest Memory” is a novella of chronological storylines told from the perspective of different
characters. The different perspectives allows the D’aguair to paint a multi-faceted and complex
picture on themes of hope, change and the past.

What are the author’s intentions?