An Oral Assessment on David Malouf's Remembering Babylon

Essay by patsmithHigh School, 12th gradeA+, June 2004

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Question: Discuss the use of symbolism, metaphors and other poetic devices in Malouf's Remembering Babylon.

This was an oral assessment that I presented, and it got me my highest mark for the year! It is not fully written(only the intro and the conclusion are) but it could be incredibly helpful for anyone studying this enjoyable text.

Enjoy! :)

Throughout Remembering Babylon, Malouf uses symbols, metaphors and other poetic devices to communicate and enhance the themes and issues of the text. Examples of this include the bees, the stone, the rain, Gemmy himself, the term "black", the apple, the gun, and the fence, and each of these carry connotations which the reader is able to associate with them, thus giving them augmented meaning.


Metaphor for Janet's union with nature.

Described as marriage, Janet the "bride".

When bees come off, Janet has a sudden understanding/affinity for nature.

Bees attracted to menstrual flow.

Highlights not only mental/emotional change, but physical change.

Bee's also ancient symbols of life. Could represent the concept of a "life-force", which Janet is forming appreciation for.


Represents power, knowledge, conflict.

Information being given to Gemmy, without consent of colonists.

Shows cultural gap.

Settlers do not know meaning of fictional stone, therefore fear its connotations.

This fear of unknown seed of conflict between colonists and natives.

Unsettles settlers, as it challenges their notion of superiority and control over the Aborigines and Gemmy.

Destabilises status quo.

Leads to marginalisation of Aborigines.

Used as a microcosm for the institutionalized oppression which was occurring throughout colonial Australia. Especially significant with a postcolonial stance.

Postcolonial stance allows us to comprehend the impact that such wide-scale divisiveness had on Australian culture. Particularly relevant to cultural identity, as colonial guilt is an important contemporary issue.


Seen by Gemmy as absolver.