'This farm stays in the family. It's a question of blood.' This text shows that even the strongest family relationships are threatened by questions of Inheritance
In society, family relationships are strained and indeed, threatened by issues of inheritance. We see this reflected in Hannie Rayson's play Inheritance, which explores how uncertainty about who will inherit the land impacts upon even the strongest of relationships. Already strained from issues relating to financial hardship and ingrained prejudices, the relationship between the characters begin to sour and crumble as they jostle for ownership of the land and vociferously propel the claims of those they perceive are 'most deserving.' Through Inheritance, Hannie Rayson attempts to illustrate that even the strongest relationships are not left untainted by tension; however, this tension is enhanced and the relationships threatened when unresolved questions of inheritance emerge.
One relationship that is threatened is that between Dibs and Girlie. Despite sharing a strong bond, questions of Allandale's future plague their relationship and render it fraught with a high degree of tension. As with many characters, tension is present between the pair prior to the revelation of Allandale's sale. An example of this tension is evident in act 1, scene 2, where Dibs disregards Girlie's claim 'I hope you're not using blood and boneÃ¢ÂÂ¦you'll burn the roots.' Dibs' dismissive response 'righto' and thus, her failure to take 'a jot of notice' reveals that some level of conflict exists between the pair. Even at this point in the play, Rayson attempts to show that Girlie feels proprietorial about the garden and is unwilling to relinquish her claim on the family property. Rayson draws further attention to this thinly disguised tension by having Girlie quickly change to topic of conversation to mask the atmosphere of ill feeling.
This relationship becomes threatened when Girlie discovers that '[Dibs] is putting Allandale on the market.' It is clear from Girlie's remark 'over my dead body she is' that the pair has differing views on the future of Allandale; indeed, Girlie insists that 'it's a question of blood' while Dibs believes 'it's my decision.' Nowhere is their relationship more threatened than in act 1, scene 27, during which Girlie vociferously asserts that 'Allandale belongs to Lyle' and attacks Dibs for her lack of communication. Accusingly, she attempts instil a degree of guilt in her sister by reminding Dibs that 'you didn't bother to say anything to us. Your own familyÃ¢ÂÂ¦Bugger you.' The tension builds as Girlie exposes the unspoken reality that Dibs was 'the princess;' the favoured one; and she, simply the other 'girl in blue.' She counters Dibs dismissive approach by courageously affirming 'our mother did what you told her toÃ¢ÂÂ¦She thought [Farley] was Christmas, so she signed over everything.' By referencing these prickly issues in her dialogue with Dibs, Girlie successfully conjures a high degree of tension and thus, pressures Dibs into confronting suppressed realities. She also threatens the stability of their relationship, which is already peppered with (very) subtle but sour undertones.
Through the relationship between Girlie and Dibs, Rayson shows that even the strongest family relationships have imperfections, and that unresolved issues of inheritance may represent a catalyst for tearing people apart.
Aside from causing a rift to develop, Rayson also uses Girlie's assertion 'it's a question of blood' to explore the notion of 'blood.' While both Girlie and Dibs adopt this notion by the play's conclusion, they are all too ready to dismiss Nugget's blood claim to the land. Nugget is, after all, related by blood to the original custodians of the fought-over land, yet because 'he's not family' - because he lacks the blood connection of Lyle - he forfeits his legal inheritance and, as some would argue, his moral inheritance of the land. Rayson's analysis of what constitutes blood invites the audience to consider broader questions, such as who owns Australia and must a blood tie always be present for one to be considered family?
Another relationship that is threatened and consequently torn apart is that of Maureen and Lyle. It is clear from the outset that their relationship is particularly tense; however, the situation escalates when husband and wife disagree over unresolved issues of inheritance. Maureen fervently believes that they must fight against the sale of Allandale; Lyle, conversely, reasons that 'life is not fair' and that he must 'accept how the coin falls'.' If Allandale is sold, Lyle will simply have to make 'the best of it.' Such diverging attitudes on inheritance prompt the disintegration of the pair's relationship. They become embittered and hostile to one another and any connection to their once strong bond is completely severed.
Through Lyle and Maureen, Rason reinforces the notion that no relationship is without problems. However, she also maintains that tension arising from questions of inheritance may serve only to exacerbate these problems and ultimately, destroy the bond shared between two people.
Although it could be argued that the relationship between Julia, Dibs and William is also threatened, we are left to wonder whether Dibs' relationship with her children was ever really strong. Certainly, her claim that 'I don't really like [William] that much' and her description of Julia as 'too selfish by half' suggest she does not dote on her children as Girlie does on Lyle. Similarly, some audience members may consider that Lyle and Nugget's relationship disintegrates as a result of their competing claims for Allandale, but it is apparent that racism dodged their relationship to a far greater extent that issues of inheritance. Indeed, neither of the men appeared to pursue their own claim and instead naively hoped that Dibs would be guided toward the 'morally right' decision.
Through the complex character relationships she has crafted, Rayson exposes the politically-incorrect truth that, despite their shared inheritance, sometimes 'to be honest, [mothers] don't really like [their children] that much.' This revelation prompts us to look back on the play and question the significance of blood in relationships. We are invited to ask - were the characters in Inheritance ever united by a strong bond? Do issues of inheritance threaten a strong bond? How important is a blood-tie? And was the issue of inheritance merely the catalyst to unearthing already shaky relationships? These are questions Rayson urges us to consider by writing Inheritance and indeed, by exploring the impact of unanswered questions of inheritance on our relationships.