World War One and its Effects
There is a sense in this play that the town of Mukinupin is, for the first time in its settled history, affected by the outside world. The world war takes away the young and resilient landscape-hardened men, and returns them changed and foreign to the town. Hewett reminds us that Australian white men for the first time probably began to understand heir strangeness to places like the Somme or Gallipoli and their involvement in these battles for the Empire put them at odds to their Anglo ancestry. Through the character of Harry, Hewett reveals to the audience the sort of horrific impact that war had on the psyche of the young men who sent off to fight on the other side of the globe:
Eek: Where is …Harry?
Jack: Jumped ship at Albany, deserted and went bush. But I wouldn't bother about getting' out the red carpet for Harry. He's shell-shocked, off his chump, takes fits and dribbles. Balmy Harry, they calls ‘im. (68)
Hewett uses the medium of playwriting in order to voice her own opinions as to the horrors of warfare. Through the use of sarcasm she is able to critique the senseless violence that occurred in World War One, which was fought ironically, to end all wars.
Eek: After five years of the most dreaded war the world has ever known; the fearful horrors of trench warfare, a Europe drenched in gore; we stand here to welcome home
our returning hero'. (67)
Although the concerns about the impact of war highlighted in this play are touched upon very briefly by the playwright. However, they still influence the overall atmosphere of the play and establish a clear historic framework for the action. Furthermore, Hewett manages to use the text to combine thematic notions that connect Australia's emerging nationhood with the metaphor of young men's journeys into manhood under the mantle of war.
Eek: It is true that not the faintest breath of these horrors ravaged our fair young shores, but we gave our sons to face the test of manhood, and, in the grey light of early dawn, leap out upon unknown shores to dare, endure and die. (67)
Later in his monologue Eek ties in the notions of Australia's emerging nationhood, mentioned above, with the soldiers who fought in World War One.
Eek: Yes, Australia was there, and Mukinupin was there, to crush Germany and re-divide the world. At one stride our young Commonwealth put on the toga of nationhood, vindicated the rights of man, and maintained the moral order of the universe. Let us pray. (67)