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“Texts can act as a stimulus for thought about issues in society”


War, terrorism, health, lifestyles, gender roles, cloning, refugees, animal rights, relationships, these are a handful of issues in which each and every one of you could have thought of in less than a couple of minutes. But what does it mean when we consider them issues? An issue can be defined as a point of disagreement or discussion. So in a society filled with different values and attitudes, these issues are those points in which different groups have conflicting opinions. These different values and attitudes can be presented to society in the form of texts. Whether it be a prose fiction, expository, poetry, feature articles or non print they all reflect the values and attitudes of the writer. I consider texts to have ultimately effected the development of my values and attitudes. So in my opinion I believe the statement “texts can act as a stimulus for thought about issues in society” to be correct.


I feel that one of the most relevant issues to young adults in today’s society is self image. “Look at me I’m not perfect” I look at that statement and I am immediately drawn to the word perfect. Who’s to say I’m not perfect? Where does my definition come from? Mostly non print text, the media, I see these gorgeous people with perfect bodies which we are all expected to aspire to and I am different. Like myself, Georgie Jutland struggled with this definition of perfection. She was different, she wasn’t obsessed with the way she looked like her mother and sisters, and because of this, her mother never really appreciated her for who she was. Now at the age of 40 she has never felt she was good enough, she struggles in codependent relationships and is not comfortable with herself. After reading Dirt Music it made me think, why are we doing this to ourselves? Why is this unhealthy desire for a fabricated definition of perfection considered commendable? Dirt Music gives you permission to develop your own definition of perfection. Be who you are and be happy with yourself. Dirt Music has so many issues such as love, relationships, self image, nature and past. I’m sure that a majority of the readers would have responded to one of these issues just as I have to the issue of self image. I believe this to be clear representation that the novel and further more texts can and have stimulated thought about issues in society.


But one must remember that these thoughts stimulated by texts such as Dirt Music are not accidental. The author uses a range of techniques to promote his values and attitudes. Whether you as a reader accept these values and attitudes depends on what you bring to the text. These can be personal experiences, understandings and cultural beliefs, your own values and attitudes, previous reading experiences, knowledge about the content, knowledge about reading conventions and your over all approach to the text. Different variations of these factors could ultimately allow you to develop a completely different understanding of a text to somebody else. And because of this the author uses a range of techniques to promote and allow the understanding of their values and attitudes to the majority of the readers. The techniques which may be employed are structure, point of view, characterization, selection of detail, setting, language, imagery, film shots and many more. It is these universal techniques which allow the understanding of a text by the majority of people.


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My response to the issue of self image in dirt music was encouraged by the techniques of characterization and structure. In the exposition of the novel we meet Georgie, escaping her dull reality through the internet. The life she is escaping is one of a 40 year old woman, functioning in a codependent relationship who feels no self worth. We do not know her past or how she got into this situation, but we do know she wants out. The novel continues to explore her problems in detail so we as the reader can fully understand her position. During this process we are exposed to the roots of her problems so not only can we see the cause but the effect on her life. One of the issues in her past was how her mother never appreciated her because of her careless nature concerning her appearance. Apart from just delving into the pasts of the characters we see how they are overcoming these problems. Georgie is learning to accept herself for who she is and developing self worth. We see Georgie change from an empty, lifeless and careless character into one of passion and love. It is this self development which allows her to resume her plutonic relationship with Luther Fox. Thus the idea that without these initial problems of self image all these emotional problems could have been avoided is stimulated.


This issue of self image and perfection is not only confined to Winton’s Dirt Music, nor only to females. Men also experience this desire for perfection. Society has certain stereotypical expectations as to what it means to be a man. Men are expected to conform to this definition of masculinity that is being strong, emotionless, rational, active, powerful and ruthless. It is thought the perfect man would conform to all of these stereotypical expectations of masculinity thus this struggle for perfection is created. Last semester we read the short story Alter of the family by Michael Wilding. The story deals with David, a young boy who struggles to conform to his fathers expectations. David possesses what are considered to be feminine qualities by his father. He seeks his father’s approval and when he fails to acquire it in desperation he shoots a possum. This goes against all his values however his struggle to conform to these masculine ideologies drives him to it. Once again this text stimulates thought about the definition of perfection in society. However this text supports the idea of changing these masculine ideologies and no longer enforcing them. Like Dirt Music it gives the reader permission to be who they are and still be accepted. It is texts like these which lead the way to changing the expectations by society imposed on the individual. Thus this text also leads me to support the statement “texts can act as a stimulus for thought about issues in society”


Both Dirt Music and The Alter of the Family stimulated thought about society’s definition of perfection. By focusing on this issue of self image I have been able to show the problem, cause and solution. All in which texts play a vital role. The function of a text is to reflect the values and attitudes of the author to make you think and perhaps re-evaluate your own. This is one of the main ways to encourage society to change or accept new ideologies. Due to the realization by society that this definition of perfection is a growing concern we are finding more texts confronting the issue. This is clear evidence that texts are stimulating thought about such issues which is leading to the creation of new texts. Texts are used in this way to stimulate thought about all sorts of issues. I can therefore confidently state my belief that the statement “texts can act as a stimulus for thought about issues in society” to be correct





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