The play No Sugar by Jack Davis has various themes and issues covered in it. My understanding of society helps with the meaning of this text, through multiple aspects. These aspects are shown in the text through various themes/issues. These themes portray society and help with my understanding of No Sugar. The themes/issues are as follows; colonialism, economic depression and the patriarchy society. All these topics were a big part of Davis time, and when he wrote the play. This is the reason that we can see these issues portrayed through his play.
Racism is a big part of his play and in the era when the play was written as well, and it’s shown not as a separate issue but is portrayed through all of these issues. One main issue in Davis time was colonialism. What is colonialism? Colonialism is ‘the control or governing influence of a nation over a dependent country, territory, or people. ’ So in this case, the British Empire control over Australia and its people, originally the aboriginals. Australia was a part of the British Empire and therefore had a colonial mindset. Making a ‘white Australia’ was what the British were trying to achieve here.
They were trying to “improve’ the place and people by making them as much like Britain as possible, as everything British was considered superior and better. Basically they were trying to make the aboriginals blend and eventually disappear. This comes out in Davis’ play in a few areas. The first area being where “Billy Kimberly and Bluey, dressed in new but absurdly ill-fitting uniforms…” the dramatic convention of costume is used here to get Davis point across. The Abdominals didn’t fit it. But the whites were trying to get them too; by making them wear this uniform they are trying to make them a part of the white society.
Also where Neville says “…to live as other Australians live, and to live along side other Australians; to learn to enjoy the privileges and to shoulder the responsibilities of living like a white man. ” It’s clearly shown here that Neville is trying to make them all one. Colonialism is clearly evident through this text, so because colonialism was evident in Davis’s time we can understand this part of society, which helps me understand this piece of text where colonialism is shown. It helps me understand this text by showing ts purpose, which relates to the main point of the play, they have ‘No Sugar’, so racism. Another issue that is present in Davis time is the economic depression. That is, the Great Depression. The great Depression was from 1929-1932, so while this play was being written. Many people were without homes and jobs. There was lots of poverty, sickness and people living on the streets. There was not a lot of money around at the time, due to lack of over seas trading. Many husbands/fathers went away to find work in other places, leaving the families alone and the mothers and women having to do everything.
It was very hard and stressful times. We can see this portrayed in this play, when in Act one, scene 7, Milly and Gran have gone to get their rations, and there is not a lot for them. For starters they cannot get any blankets but also they don’t get any meat. “Milly: You forgot our meat order. Sergeant: No meat this week. Milly: What? Sergeant: Finished; in future no meat is included in the rations. Gran: Why? Constable: There’s a bloody depression on. Milly: What are we going to do for meat? Constable: There are plenty of roos and rabbits. In this passage we can see, the connection between the depression in Davis time and the depression in the book. Knowing about this context helps me to understand this passage better. This is because it’s not just the whites being racists and not giving them much food, but its hard times and there is not much food to go around, especially as the aboriginals are at the ‘end’ of the food chain, and most marginalised, they ended up with less than everyone else. The last issue I have come across here is the patriarchal society and how by understanding this I can understand the play better.
A patriarchal society is one whereby “men are the decision-makers and hold positions of power and prestige, and have the power to define reality and common situations. ” Despite the depression, the women carried a great domestic burden, home-making was still considered a women’s role, so even if a women had worked all day scrubbing floors to bring in some money, her unemployed husband would still expect her to cook dinner and keep the house in order. It was very unfair and unjust times, due to the depression and to this society. We can see this in the play, where the only white women we really ear of are the secretary Miss Dunn and Miss Eileen and the matron. None of these ladies hold power; where as the white males mentioned all do hold power. It’s quite obvious in this play that the men are in control and “call all the shots. ” We can also see the power the men have over the women, especially the blacks, when Mary tells Joe about what Mr Neal does. “Mary: No! Some of those guddeeahs (white people) real bad. My friend went last Christmas and then she came back boodjarri (pregnant). She recons the boss’s son used to belt her up and, you know, force her. Then they kicked her out.
And when she had that baby them trackers choked it dead and buried it in the pine plantation. ” Also we can see it where Mr Neal beats Mary up. “Neal grabs her. Billy holds her outstretched over a pile of flour bags. Neal raises the cat-o-nine-tails. Blackout. A scream. ” The dramatic convention of lighting here makes this scene seem even more dramatic. This whipping of a pregnant lady is quite horrific and something like this would not go un-noticed today. So understanding this patriarchal society helps with my understanding of the text as I can see why the men do certain things.
They don’t know any better, but as shown through Davis play, they should because even in the aboriginal’s house women are treated better and have more respect than in the white society. Concluding, these 3 issues/themes that were a part of Davis life and a part of the society in which he grew up in, and which are portrayed in this text, once reading into them I can understand the text better. Colonialism, economic depression and the patriarchy society are not very present today anymore. But the overall theme of racism is still here, in different ways we can see it present.
Wether is be the sad drunk man on the street, because he has lost his heritage and what was once important to him has been forgotten and passed away, or wether it be the way some aboriginals are treated, or the way some aboriginals treat others. The effects of those different parts of society are still present today, like colonialism. Davis has done a good job in this play, of portraying these different themes so that we today can look back on the mistakes that were made and learn from them. Now we just need to keep moving forward, keep working with the aboriginals and creating a better future. Together. As citizens of Australia.