Oranges and Sunshine Essay ‘An individual’s sense of identity can be affected by many factors’. An individual’s sense of identity is exceptionally complex and is quite significantly influenced by many factors. These distinct factors may be desired and appreciated or unwanted and harmful. Each of these factors has consequences that may either nurture or attenuate one’s sense of self. These notions are predominantly evident in the intensely compelling film, ‘Oranges and Sunshine’, directed by Jim Loach and the poem ‘In the Park’ by Gwen Harwood.
Traumatic and challenging experiences such as rape and abuse have a monumental impact upon an individual’s sense of identity throughout their lifetime. The horrific exploitation of the innocent migrant children is revealed in Oranges and Sunshine. The children’s psyches have been scarred due to the trauma that has been inflicted upon them, ultimately impacting their identities well into adulthood. They have been emotionally and psychologically shattered due to the deprivation, torment and rape as a result of their innocence and trust.
A close up camera angle of Walter portrays the extent of the trauma and torture to which he was exposed and which still remains with him. “He took me into the bathroom and they…they. ” The unintentional pause in his dialogue places great emphasis on his deep emotional struggle. The voiceovers of the men recounting their horrific experiences when Margaret visits Bindoon give us insight into the torment and abuse the migrant children suffered and the pain that lingers. We learn of cuts, sores and burns they acquired as a result of lifting things the size of their upper body in the blazing heat.
The degrading tone used towards them ‘weak, pitiful sons of whores’ displays the public humiliation they endured which was not limited to being stripped naked and forced on top of tables in front of everyone. Their identity as innocent children has been forcibly taken away from them. Traumatic and challenging experiences will inevitably have a significant impact upon an individual’s identity throughout life. Challenges to an individual’s self-perception will vastly impact upon their sense of identity. We can often find ourselves questioning our identity when people challenge the way we see ourselves and the roles that define who we are.
In Oranges and Sunshine this aspect is displayed through Margaret whose sense of identity falters when she must choose between her family and championing for the truth on behalf of the migrant children. Margaret’s sense of identity is firstly challenged by the radio interviewer who was highly critical of her. She challenges Margaret when she talks about what has happened to the migrant children through diction. Her choice of words – ‘Outrageous’ – implies her disbelief in Margaret’s response. ‘Outrageous- it’s rather a strong word. Margaret’s role as a mother is attacked by the woman on the stairs after the meeting with the government official’s. The woman’s condescending tone ‘Take consolation in your own family rather than meddling in all of this. ’ makes her question her position as a loving mother. Called a liar by the receptionist also shakes Margaret’s identity as it goes against who she is and what she trying to accomplish for the ‘Lost Children’. Margaret’s story shows how the thoughts and comments of others can cause us to question the way we see and feel about ourselves.
The love, support and trust of others can have a huge impact upon an individual’s sense of identity. Other’s belief in us will empower a person and make their identity stronger. Oranges and Sunshine shows us how challenges can negatively impact upon one’s identity and make us weaker but it also demonstrates how love and support can give us the power to remain strong even when we think hope all hope is lost. Having her identity and role as a mother questioned, getting attacked, being threatened, and being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are all things that consequently caused Margaret’s identity to falter.
This puts her into dark place that causes her to lose hope and strength. . Merv’s support and belief helped her become more resilient and maintain her commitment to the lost children. He kept her from feeling inadequate and guilty by taking care of the children and the house. The determined tone in- ‘I’m gonna find it, Margaret. You know I am’ – highlights the belief that sustained Margaret. The visit from Charlotte and Vera, the mother and daughter she reunited, renews her hope and strength. Their gratitude and fulfilment contrasts the awkwardness and silence that was present when Margaret first introduced them..
They both speak in unison of their feelings ‘whole. Nothing missing. ’ This showed Margaret what she could accomplish. The encounter between the Brothers and Margaret is tense and silent but hearing the stories and the tone of the voices of the men ‘the fucker raped me, Margaret’ gives her the power to confront them. The support, love and trust of others is critical for a healthy and renewed sense of identity In Oranges and Sunshine motherhood is shown as a fulfilling and enriching experience through the love displayed by Margaret towards her kids.
Her role as a mother is a large contribution to who Margaret is as a person. However, Gwen Harwood’s poem ‘In the Park’ subverts the traditional idea of motherhood being a heartening experience. It represents the evolvement of an individual due to circumstance, in this case, the identity of the woman has been diminished by her three children. This woman feels she has become uninteresting and depressing; her life has changed to someone whose life revolves around her children. The good looking ex-boyfriend represents her previous life that has been lost in her role as a mother.
She realises that because of her being so devoted to the children, her sense of self has diminished. Seeing her ex causes her to wish she’d taken another path and feels resentment towards her kids. As a typical mother she hides these feeling and the cliched conversation ‘it’s so sweet to hear their chatter’ reflects her effort to hide these bitter feelings. The tone of anguish in the metaphor ‘They have eaten me alive’ accentuates the despair of this woman who feels that motherhood has totally consumed her identity and further emphasises that the role of a mother is one of ultimate sacrifice which results in a loss of self.
Harwood has proven that though motherhood is one of life’s most rewarding challenges, it can be the cause of a reduced sense of character due to the amount of time and energy that is required to be a fulfilling mother. Both ‘Oranges and Sunshine’ and ‘In the Park’ make it apparent that an individual’s sense of self is affected by many distinctive factors. Difficult experiences will have negative outcomes for an individual’s sense of self but they can also result in a stronger identity forged by confronting these changes.