Chapter One Introduction
1.1 An Introduction to the Author and His Work
As a Chinese-Australian novelist,Brian Castro mainly focuses on the livingconditions and psychological status of Australian minority groups,especially thoseChinese-Australians.Born in a cosmopolitan family in Hong Kong on 16 January 1950,Brian Castro was brought up in a household where Chinese,English and Portuguesewere frequently used and thus he had great opportunity to come across different culturesand understand different ways of lives.As he once said that“six different nationalitieshave a great effect on me and I was involved in at least three different religions”(Castro,“Estrellita”15).Therefore,under the influence of such special background and hismigrant experience,he attempts to describe the lineage and identity dilemma of thosehybrids and explores the possibility of the ultimate and authentic solution to an identitycrisis.“Hybridity and marginality are two things that characterize Castro’s writingcareer and his ideological position”(Ouyang 32).And accordingly Brian Castro’spublished novel Birds of Passage(1983)deals with issues concerning about hybrididentities.
As his first novel,Birds of Passage focuses on the immigrant experiences ofChinese digger Lo Yun Shan in Australia and his descendant Seamus O’Young.Bydepicting the marginalization and alienation of his two protagonists,Castro not only criticizes the shallow and frivolous traditional Australian nationalism and Asianstereotype,but also provides an ideal solution for the harmonious co-existence ofdifferent ethnic groups in a multicultural society.After its publication,the novel won around of applause and was regarded as“one of the first novels to discuss the Asianmigrant experience in Australia”(Bennett 145).And it won the Australian/VogelLiterary Award for 1982 beginning Brian Castro’s successful writing career as anovelist.
1.2 Background of This Research
After the publication of Australian multicultural strategy in the 1970s,a growingnumber of literary works focusing on the tragic living conditions and severe mentalillness of those minority groups which has been neglected for a long time began toprosperous and drew much attention from home and abroad.With a morecomprehensive and inclusive attitude,
novels of the 1908s show an increasing concreteness andsophistication;individually named countries and cities aredepicted in much more detail,and there is an attempt to treat localmanners and mores with care and accuracy and to find humorwithin the cultural context rather than ridiculing it from outsidewith imperialistic disdain(Lafleur 504).
Brian Castro is one of those most famous and representative writers whoconcentrates on the Asian Australian’s sufferings and his maiden work Birds of Passageis regarded as the first Australian novel which unveils the marginalized condition ofAsian Australian.Just as he said that one of the motivations of writing this novel wasdue to the smothering Australian nationalism and its undermining effects on theprinciple of a multicultural society.He pointed out that“Europe could succeed only if ittook on the framework of a broad civic society and to smother the demons ofnationalism which is threatening to engulf Central Europe.
Chapter Two Literature Review
2.1 Studies of Birds of Passage Abroad
Studies abroad about Birds of Passage mainly concentrate on its deconstruction oftraditional nationalism,the hybridity feature and its double narrative strategy.
As we know,one of the most significant features of the text is its precise andcomprehensive description of Australian society which attracts many scholars’attentionand contributes to the textual analysis about its social and psychological significance.And fortunately,such academic research provides abundant materials for my analysis ofthe text from the perspective of social and psychological space.For example,in CathyBennett’s thesis Asian Australian Migrant Identity:Brian Castro’s Birds of Passage andAfter China,she claimed that Castro deconstructed the traditional notion of Australiannationalism which claimed that there was no connection between Asian Australianpeople with the culture and history of Australia by“exploring the experience of theAsian migrant in Australia,often historical connection to the Australian social andphysical landscape”(C.Bennett,145).Except for the break-up of the entrenchedfrivolous notion of nationalism,she also argued that the novel“also questions theimportance of a shared history of ethnic experience as a central part of the discursiveformation of the nation”(C.Bennett,146).Besides,by analyzing the Australiandiscriminatory social condition from the perspective of the whites’gaze,Marilyne Brun remarked that“the novel’s critique of the white gaze and racialization destabilizes theAustralian ideologies of egalitarianism and racial tolerance”(74).The relevant researchof the text’s reveal of the overwhelming whites’gaze also can be found in Peter D.Mathews’work in which he pointed out that“there is power in the gaze,Castro remindsus,a power that is invested with normalizing expectations and,as such,seeks to policethe boundaries so as to exclude what is foreign”(53).
2.2 Studies of Birds of Passage at Home
Studies of Birds of Passage at home mainly focus on the psychological analysis ofits protagonists’sufferings and mental collapse,the postmodernist analysis of issuesabout identification and deconstruction of traditional Australian nationalism and thepolyphonic analysis of its narrative features which provide valuable materials aboutanalyzing the text from the perspective of psychological space.
For example,Yang Na analyzed one of the protagonists Seamus O’Young’s loss ofthe self,the bewilderment towards self and his final dissimilation by applying Lacan’spsychological theory.She pointed out that“Brian Castro shows great concern towardthose marginalized persons and the phenomenon of the dissimilation andmarginalization of people,and that the characterization of Seamus corresponds withLacan’s theory that the self-identity is unattainable and the subject is surely to bedissimilated”(Yang 24).The analysis above provides specific and precise material formy analysis of protagonists’mental collapse from the aspect of psychological space.The similar research also can be found in Wang Fan’s post colonial work Castro and hisnovel Birds of Passage.He argued that“the Chinese-Australian protagonist Seamus inCastro’s masterpiece,Birds of Passage,encounters an identity crisis and speaks in apost-modern,cosmopolitan voice beyond the country...And mercilessly satirizes thehypocritical nature of Australian nationalism”(Wang 71).While also based on thepost-colonial theory,Gan Huiting explored how Birds of Passage challenged and surpassed the traditional Australian nationalism.He pointed out that by using the doublenarrative strategy Castro combined the 19th-century Chinese immigrant and the20th-century modern Australian citizen together which broke the notion of traditionalAustralian nationalism that proposed there’s no connection between Asian immigrantand Australian history.And such analysis provides reasonable and reliable inspirationfor my further research about how the text subverts the traditional Australiannationalism.
Chapter Three Physical Space:The Natural Connection betweenTwo Protagonists.........13
3.1 The Historic Connection Nature Reserves for Human.............................13
3.1.1 The Bleak Physical Space Leading to Psychological Crisis....................13
3.1.2 The Battered Workplace Corresponding with Social Hegemony............16
Chapter Four Social Space:The Social Resistance ofTwo Protagonists.................36
4.1 The Breakup of Asian Stereotype..........................36
4.1.1 An Educated and Flexible Chinese Lo Yun Shan........................36
4.1.2 An Alienated but Faithful Chinese-Australian Seamus................39
Chapter Five Psychological Space:The Self-reflection ofTwo Protagonists..............................58
5.1 The Inveteracy and Final Collapse of Traditional Chinese Culture...................58
5.1.1 Lo Yun Shan’s Adherence to Confucian Doctrines.......................58
5.1.2 Lo Yun Shan’s Abandonment of His belief............................61
Chapter FivePsychological Space:The Self-reflection of Two Protagonists
5.1 The Inveteracy and Final Collapse of Traditional Chinese Culture
As an authentic Chinese,Lo Yun Shan is bound to encounter breathtaking andsmothering social prejudice and controversies due to his profound recognition ofChinese culture.Just as Kam pointed out that“Castro sees his protagonists such as LoYun Shan as men from the margins,bound to create instabilities within the core of thedominant culture”(Louie 187).Therefore,by analyzing his experiences of adhering andabandoning of his belief,this part will point out how the narrow and shallow Australiannationalism erodes an innocent and ambitious immigrant into a murder and failurewhich contributes to subvert such injustice and hideous social ideology.
5.1.1 Lo Yun Shan’s Adherence to Confucian Doctrines
As a member of those earliest frontiers who sailed abroad to make fortune inAustralia,Shan experienced a tough process of adopting into the foreign culturalenvironment.Although such attempt finally failed,Shan got much more profound and thorough understanding and contemplation of the advantages and limitations of his owntraditional Chinese culture.Based on the analysis of the novel,Shan’s adherence to thetraditional Chinese culture was mainly described from three aspects:first was theinfluence of traditional Chinese culture to his personalities;second was the influence tohis way of viewing and inquiring his surroundings;third was the influence to hisattitude towards the foreign culture.By analyzing from these three aspects,the researchwill uncover the internal secret spiritual world of those early Chinese immigrantsrepresented by Shan and argue how such profound cultural influence of his motherlandcontributed to his final collapse of his Australian adaption.
Chapter Six Conclusion
6.1 Major Findings
As the first Australian literary novel which concentrates on the romantic andexciting adventures of those Chinese immigrants,Birds of Passage puts the issues ofthe limitations and disadvantages of Australian nationalism under the spotlight.Byskillfully using the double narrative strategy,Brian Castro breaks the time and spatiallimitation between those early Chinese immigrants and their descendants combining thedifferent life experiences into one.And such arrangement of the plot gives the readers astraight and overwhelming contrast of the sufferings and misfortunes in the 19th centuryAustralia and 20th century Australia.From the perspective of the spatial theory,thisthesis integrates the complex plots into three different dimensions:the aspect of thephysical space,the aspect of social space and the aspect of psychological space.And byanalyzing these three aspects,this research gives a full representation of how Australiannationalism mistreats those foreigners over the past one hundred years and thusdiscusses how Castro subverts such shallow and limited ideological trends.In the end,this thesis gives a further exploration about Brian Castro’s optimistic solution of how toestablish a harmonious multicultural Australian society.
Firstly,from the perspective of the physical space,this research gives a thoroughanalysis about how the Australian natural space has established a harmonious andintimate relationship with those minority groups dwelling in Australia.By comparingthe similarities of natural scenery protagonists have experienced,the thesis figures outBrian Castro’s intention of emphasizing the intimate and historic connection betweenthose Chinese immigrants and their surroundings.And by analyzing the protection andinspiration the natural space provides to human,the thesis argues that it was thematernal and generous hospitality of Australian natural space that contributed to their mutual benefit relationship.And it is precisely such ultimate maternal humanity thatgives birth to a promising future of the multicultural society.