Answers to “Behold the Man” #
Suggested Answers: Please note that you will not be able to refer to all of these suggested points but should broach at least two to three points per question.
1.) This passage satirises the modern Australian man’s conformity to a stereotype; that of a vapid predictable routine and sterile existence. He unthinkingly or blindly conforms to a life devoid of meaning.
2.)The language begins with a biblical declamation (theatrical statement) then slowly slides down a slippery slope of technical jargon (decibels), maintains its formality with “few furtive” (alliteration) then degenerates to colloquialisms, (flickering shadows – TV.) before borrowing the American slang of the shows, “cops…, goodies and baddies, guys and dolls”
*a). The tone appears objective but then becomes ironic, sardonic - mocking his serious aspirations and ridiculing him for his shallow achievements.
b). The level of usage is highly inappropriate. The early declamation is a parody of Christian hymns and the book of Isaiah and later from (St. John 1:29)
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”.
Pilate then paraded Jesus before the crowd and exclaimed, “Behold, the man!” (Jn. 19:5). Significantly, this very phrase is found in an Old Testament prophecy that heralds the coming of Israel’s Messiah. This is ironic because the man we are urged to admire is a very ordinary everyday Australian with no discernable heroic traits. There is an abundance of biblical or spiritual nuances in the language such as:
Sunday morning – the faithful to worship, wilderness, sustain .
The sharp contrast with the materialistic and hedonistic values of “the man” illustrates subtle satiric undercutting of the passage. In many ways it uses Chaucerian irony.
Yet in another sense the language is very appropriate because of its decline from the formal to the colloquial and eventually the American Slang of B-Grade television shows.
c). There is a discernible pattern of ideas beginning with lofty spiritual connotations of “Behold”, “Sunday” and the call to “worship”. However it soon becomes evidence that what is being worshipped is not spiritual, rather the tangible; materialistic (3) and hedonistic (7) pleasures. From the transcendent we soon degenerate to the sterile, mundane and moral aridity of modern man’s values and aspirations. Instead of yearning for heavenly paradise, we attempt to create it here.
d). Rhetorical techniques include the declamatory Opening, followed by some rather bathetic¹ parenthesis, qualifying and bringing us back to earth. There are only two full sentences, the first one a fragment with the subject – you - understood.
The second sentence is an inverted sentence beginning with a series of listing of material possession (cumulation) interspersed with a rhetorical question followed by a second litany of hedonistic activities to press the case and demonstrate the limitations of our values and aspirations.
¹Bathos is an anti-climax; our expectations are raised only to be let down by the triviality of the rest.
e). The nuances of language make this an effective passage. Even though its form is prose, it uses many of the features of poetry. The noble spiritual overtones soon give way to more pedestrian earth bound realities and subtle but derisive undercutting of his existence – he is not a man worth “beholding” or admiring. The undertones of derision begin with the “motor mower calling the faithful to worship”. The clash or juxtaposition of this raises our suspicions. Referring to the Australian bush as “the wilderness” creates a conflict between overtones of biblical language and our obsession with “blocks of land and brick veneers”.
Further disparaging undertones include the alliterative “few furtive adulteries”, and “tribal rituals of football” , illustrating the lack of meaning in his life.
3.) The idea of belonging is conveyed by the stereotype portrayed. This is not an individual, rather the “typical” Australian of the post-war era. Rather than finding an individual identity, he is happy to conform and fall into line with the rest of his mates, settle down, adopt middle class material and hedonistic values and enjoy life. The notion of conformity becomes evident in “a beer with the boys” and later the “tribal rituals of football”. His contentment consists with being like everyone else and belonging to the national stereotype of the times.
There is no evidence of his questioning his existence or relating to a wider world of ideas. Instead of a fully functioning engaged individual, he is merely a cog in the wheel of life. Some people feel more secure in belonging to mainstream “tribes” rather than being individuals.
World War I became a disillusionment for all colonial outposts, including Australians.
Henry Handel Richardson – The Fortunes of Richard Mahony - Australia Felix helped to put Australia on the literary map.
Neither a promoter of an alien British culture, nor a promoter of Australianess, rather an observer of what happened to human beings when they crossed the seas from Europe to the ancient barbaric continent - Australia. In turn what they did to the land, how they robbed it with their greed, their unholy hunger and how the terrible revenge the ancient continent extracted from them for their folly. How does a cultivated person with special sensibilities, born or adopted into a New World society and then in revulsion from that embrace the civilisation of the old world?
D.H, Lawrence commented similarily on a “happy-go-lucky, don’t worry, we’re in Australia”, the country where there seemed to be “no inside life of any sort, just a lapse and drift”. Australia, a land of pleasure and hedonism.
Craig McGregor was another one who wrote about the great Australian stupor; satirising the modern Australian man’s conformity to a stereotype; that of a vapid predictable routine and sterile existence. He unthinkingly or blindly conforms to a life devoid of meaning.
Subsiding from spiritual transcendence we soon degenerate to the sterile, mundane and moral aridity of modern man’s values and aspirations. Instead of yearning for moral enlightenment or heavenly paradise, we attempt to create it here through rampant materialism and indulgent hedonism.