Thread: Literary Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
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Old 06-30-2020, 10:47 PM   #20
AnotherCat
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Originally Posted by Bookworm_Girl View Post
Thanks for the explanation, AnotherCat!

Can you please help me understand the references between north and south? Are they referring to the North and South Islands, or are they referring to within the South Island? I think Waimaru in the novel is representative of the South Island coastal city of Oamaru where Frame lived.
Yes, I took Waimaru as being an allusion to Oamaru. North and south means north and south from there in South Island, not the North and South Islands (although Toby does go "north" to Wellington in the North Island). Being a long narrow country it is not uncommon to hear people talk of heading north or south (but not very common to hear of going East or West, as is heard in the USA ).

For example, Bob works, I took it to be, for the railways (he "came home, with his workbag of coal in one hand, and his dirty blueys in the other", the coal he gets from work and doesn't pay for) and just before that Amy is told by the doctor "I take it your husband is up north with the Limited". The main railway in NZ runs most of the length of the country, "up north" one would assume to be as far as Christchurch.

Toby, late in the book, goes "north" to Wellington and he is reminded that the train goes right through to the boat (alluding to Picton at the top of South Island), not to get off at Christchurch. Where, Mrs. Robinson is said to say of his uncle and aunt in Wellington, "they took him on a train where the doors shut without being touched, as if they were told to." This alluding to Wellington's electric commuter trains (newly introduced during late 1930s so the timeline is correct) and is to me part of the theme that knowledge and sophistication increased as one heads north.

That theme in the storyline that knowledge and sophistication increases as one goes northwards comes up right from the start. Early in the book, for example, the town councillor's (the elected town government representatives) say "The northern towns go ahead, becoming bigger and bigger, while we stagnate here, in the south." That is, even now, not an uncommon belief of those in the furthest north who are uninformed or parochial, but the four main cities do indeed increase in size as one goes from the southmost, being Dunedin, through Christchurch, Wellington then Auckland (none of which are anything close to being classed as big by world, or even neighboring Australian, standards though).

Last edited by AnotherCat; 06-30-2020 at 11:10 PM.
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