Analyse how the structure of the text was used to explore an important theme.
“Structure” may refer to the order, organisation, or conventions of a text.
‘Dustbins’ written by Witi Ihimaera, is a short story that portrays the theme of "Appearance vs Reality”, or known as the Halo Effect in the modern world. With the use of structure and other language techniques, the author was able to showcase this idea right into his story proving that someone may not seem to be what they appear as.
Ihimaera has used structure well into his story to implement the idea of the ‘Halo Effect’ well, representing it in the many ways of the characters. The author starts this off from the beginning of the story, with the narrator being the main character himself. The narrator starts off by explaining who he is, while thinking lowly of himself, allowing us to believe so too:
“No money, no brains, no job. Dumb as” “We are the arse end of society”
The author uses the technique of structure as well as personification - comparing himself to someone’s behind - to allow us to believe the narrator truly is a loser as he said he was, but with time, truth unfolds. We find out that he gets a job as a dustie and in the process of his work, he ends up saving a discarded baby from being crushed into the rubbish truck. From being seen as “the arse end of society” to saving a baby from being killed, we see that the narrator’s appearance and thought wasnt who he truly is. In fact, he was a hero, who had saved a life and could have possibly lost his in the process of saving the baby. Ihimaera used structure to his advantage to allow the narrator to seem like a nobody, appearing in the end to be a hero, who had saved a baby from death.
The director had also used structure to build on the image of the narrator’s cousin, Crazy-Joe. Crazy-Joe had found a job for the narrator when he was fired and going through a rough patch, making him find hope in humanity again. The narrator had even agreed to Crazy-Joe being one of the best people around, by saying:
“Man, Crazy-Joe really looked after me. They dont get more staunch than this.”
The story has now planted a good image of Crazy-joe, but with the coming story we see he really was like his name - out of his mind. On a rubbish collection day with the narrator and Crazy-Joe, The narrator finds a bag of kittens meowing to be released and let go. The narrator, as a normal humming being, feels upset and wonders what human does this, but Crazy-Joe does the unthinkable:
“ “It happens all the time, why can’t people do the job properly” He took the sack and swung it against the machine until it stained red from the blood”
From being called a staunch person who had cared for a friend in need to killing creatures with no remorse puts a halt on the reader’s mind and allows them to understand the author’s purpose - not everyone who seems kind is good, vice versa. With the shocking result of Crazy-Joe being an awful man, the theme is reinforced and proves that the Halo Effect is punctured into our mind, believing someone is a certain way because of their behaviour’.
The final way the author uses structure to inform the audience and reinforce the theme through yet another evil character, Mary’s Brother. Mary is a girl from a neighbourhood the dusties often go to, who have all fallen for her beautiful characteristics and kindness. Mary lives with her brother and father, who worked in a bank together. They seemed to be of a respectable family, with the narrator saying:
“The father was a rich man…Very respectable, making megabucks. Had a Jaguar in the drive and a yacht”
With the emphasis of the very expensive can and attitude, we assume MAry and her family are living a great life, but it is only the quiet before a storm. As the story goes on to reveal the true identities, we find out that Mary’s brother and her father had been sexually abusing her, and that the baby that was thrown in the bin was hers from their abuse:
“There was more. It all came out later. I hope her father and brother rot in prison”
The author yet again had proven that a respectable car and a good business does not make you a good human, revealing the disgusting truth about Mary’s family.
This idea is also presented in another story called ‘Flower Girls’ by Patricia Grace. The story revolves around a father who had died, and was known to be a noble man and known figure in society, but the truth was that he had been sexually abusing his daughters and wife, causing them to have mental and physical disorders for his actions. The Halo effect is not only a story phenomena, it is also one in our real life. One eighth of sexual assault victims are abused from close family, proving that those who seem the closest of know you the best truly cant be trusted on the bases of that.
To conclude, Witi Ihimaera uses the technique of structure to manipulate our thought process and prove his purpose right; that appearance does not define reality. From this phenomena, we see both sides of this though, bad being good, and good being bad, teaching us a lesson to never judge a person by their cover.