Originally Posted by issybird
My reaction is that the racism in the Australia portion is that, unfortunately, it really was unconscious. Shute went to great pains to show Jean as understanding in the Malaya portion of the book, so the contrast is telling to me.
I know it's outside the purlieus of this story, but think about Jean's prewar life in Malaya. The situation with the white rancher and his wife must have been fairly common on the rubber plantations in Malaya, although most of the interracial couples wouldn't have been married, and the woman and any children would have been abandoned if the rancher went back to England. In any case, Jean would have been well aware of it even if she didn't meet the men and their women socially. So why the shock and dismay in Australia? Especially since this seems to be a far better situation according to the morals of the time. The couple was married and the rancher wasn't leaving. The key element has to be race. So either it's because Shute has a different reaction to miscegenation with Asians or he just wasn't thinking about the implications of his story; I suspect some of both.
Not sure what Shute felt about miscegenation in Malaya especially as he never mentions mixed couples or Jean's reaction to them in that section of the story. He may have missed the mark a bit with the handling of Malaya and just went with what suited him for the story.
He lived in Australia in the 50s so he might have had a bit more exposure. I'm not actually sure what exposure he had to Alice Springs and gulf country though. I've lived in Australia all my life and haven't had that much exposure to either. I think the closest I've got to gulf country was a holiday to Port Douglas/Cairns - not exactly a thorough exploration.