The Harp in the South: An Analysis
Question/Topic: Writers position their readers to react a particular way to their characters. How has Ruth Park position her readers, The Harp in the South, to feel about three protagonists from her text? The Harp in the South written by Ruth Park tells the narrative of a Catholic Irish Australian family living in the Sydney suburb of Usury Hills during the 1 sass. Through the characterization of Role, Miss.
Shells and Tommy Mendel, Park positions the reader to feel a range of emotions from admiration to anger, as they endure the love, poverty and deception In a place where any fall a victim to circumstances beyond their control.
Role Diary desires nothing more than the “security and contentment of love”(peg 70) and throughout the novel, Park positions the readers to feel her pain and sense of hopelessness In her quest to find It, however, despite the hardships and struggles she encounters Parks readers continue to anticipate her happiness. Role Is young and naive when she believes she Is In love with Tommy Mendel. There Is relationship built purely on manipulation of her feelings and when she loses her flagrantly to him, out of vulnerability and guilt, he eaves her with the “ache and terror of realization” (peg 103) that this is not what she imagines love to be.
The readers are positioned to feel her heartache as she suffers emotionally from her anxiety at her deception being discovered, her miscarriage at the hands of the Dutch sailors, and in the process she loses her sense of self-worth and personal value.
When she encounters Charlie Roth and he rescues her at the local radio station, she finds a rare feeling of calm in his comfort. As she tentatively falls in love with Charlie, the readers feel hope for Role and her redemption because f Parks intentional contrast of Role’s love for Charlie from her ‘love’ for Tommy.
Finding security and worth in Chalice’s arms she has a baby with him and loves being a mother because of her “contentment and continued love” (peg. 78). His unconditional love and acceptance allows her to find her own happiness, thus allowing the readers to also feel Joy that contentment and that love does exist somewhere beyond the heartache and fear.
It is through the character of Role that Park explores the idea of love, and Just as she uses this characterization, Park also uses Shells to explore the idea of poverty. Miss Shells is a tragic victim to poverty and as a result is “consumed by bitter furies and hatred of everyone” (peg. 5). Park positions the readers to feel an initial hatred towards her which later translates to sympathy when we discover a side to her that was disguised by the resentment she has of her own life. Role and Dollar Diary know that Shells “knew a world wider than theirs” (peg.
3) and that she was not always defeated by disappointment and desperation of another life. She lives with the Darers and has an Illegitimate son Johnny, who is both intellectually and physically Impaired. She treats him with cruelty as she physically abuses him and sees him only as a burden that she endures because he Is a source of Income.
Readers Initially feel rage at Shells mistreatment of her own child and when Johnny dies, her refusal to show any emotional affection evokes the readers to feel disheartened. Role and Dollar discover that she secretly whips herself, whilst crying out for Johnny with the “determination to atone for the wrongs she had done her son” (peg. 92) Park purposely changes her characterization of Shells and her feelings for Johnny that she earlier concealed.
She marries Mr.. Gunderson and leaves Plymouth Street, as an “escape into another environment and another sort of life. ” (peg. 80) The readers begin to feel a sense of understanding and sympathy for Shells and as she desperately searches for fulfillment in her life and escape from the loneliness and poverty that is her constant downfall.
Park also positions the reader to feel a range of emotions towards Tommy Mendel through his deception. Tommy Mendel is an inarticulate character built purely on deception and Park positions the readers to feel anger and resentment towards him for his publicity. He sees Role as nothing more than an opportunity to fulfill his wish to boast to his friends as he is no longer a virgin and he wants an “experience” (peg. 0) from her. It becomes evident that he is not humanely considerate of her and merely uses her desire to be loved against her through deception.
The readers are positioned to feel an immense hatred towards Tommy’s actions. He ‘guilty’ Role into having sex with him even though he is aware that he is not in love with her but his selfishness motivates him and guides his actions. When he leaves Role he does not “feel any sire for her” peg (104) and tells her that he would not be around as often.
The readers feel a mix of outrage and disgust that he took advantage of Role and her nativity, positioned to dislike him and his scheming nature through his lies and dishonesty which upset the lives of others. Through the characters of Role, Miss.
Sheila and Tommy Mendel in the The Harp in the South, Ruth Park positions the reader to feel sympathy, happiness and anger through love, poverty and deception. Through her characterization, Park brings to life a world where suffering and love can and do coexist sometimes with appalling consequences.