In Melina Marchetta’s novel, “Looking for Alibrandi”, the theme of identity is a process of discovery along a journey for most of the characters. Although John Barton’s journey is short by the end, he knew what he wanted and he made sure that no one was hurt more than necessary when he achieved it. Josephine Alibrandi discovers her identity after many developments in her life, many of which include Jacob Coote, John Barton and Katia Alibrandi. Katia Alibrandi, Josie’s grandmother, (nonna) has experienced a lot in her time but still needs Josie’s help to let go of her past. Jacob Coote went along with what everyone expected of him until he met Josie. She helps him to reopen the door to his journey of identity. Melina Marchetta has provided a text with the identity issues that many face and she has provided her readers with outcomes that prove to be perfect examples of the outcomes of discovery of identity.
John Barton does not know what he wants in life but he knows what he does not want. He does not want to follow in his father’s footsteps; to “make promises I can’t keep…I don’t want a lot of responsibilities in life…I don’t want to climb to the top” (pg 47). As John Barton continues to discover his identity, he dislikes it more and more. He convinces himself that he does not want to live anymore. It is a fact that many teenagers face and Marchetta portrays it extremely well though John Barton. When John First tells Josie that he does not want to live anymore, she, like many teenage friends, did not fully understand. “At first I didn’t understand… watching those vacant eyes I realised he meant no other life” (pg 134). Many songs portray the feelings that John Barton fells, an excellent example being the chorus of Simple Plan’s Welcome to my Life:
“To be hurt
To fell lost
To be left out in the dark
To be kicked
When you’re down
To feel like you’ve been pushed around
To be on the edge of breaking down
And no ones there to save you
No, you don’t know what its like
Welcome to my life”
The next time that Josie and John are alone together, he seemed fine, “there was a euphoria about him that was catching,” (pg 228). Marchetta foreshadows John Barton’s future with the link of “I don’t think I want to live this life anymore,” (pg 134) and “I’ve got my whole future planned out the way I want it and there is nothing anyone can do to take that away from me,” (pg 229). The journey of John Barton may have been short, but that just made it all the more necessary to understand.
Josephine Alibrandi is a senior student, at St Martha’s College, who is confused with her social and cultural status. Josie considers herself to be stuck between two cultures, Australian and Italian. “As far as the Italians are concerned we weren’t completely one of them. Yet because my grandparents were born in Italy we weren’t completely Australian,” (pg 7) Josie also feels that she does not fit in at school. “The ones like me didn’t belong in the eastern and northern suburbs,” (pg 8). Josie hated Ivy Lloyd, yet envied her social status and desperately wanted to belong to her world. “No matter how much I hate Poison Ivy, I want to belong to her world…a world where I can be accepted,” (pg 32). All she wants more than anything is to “be free and think for myself. Not as an Australian and not as an Italian and not as an in between,” (back cover). It was not until after Josie left the walk-a-thon that she realised, with Sister Louise’s help, that she and her friends were not as socially out of it as they thought.
“Socially we weren’t as shitty as we thought we were,” (pg 184). With the mixture of John Barton’s death and Jacob Coote, breaking up with her Josie realised that she wouldn’t wake up one day and everything would feel liberated. It had taken her a year to become so. “I just sat there thinking back on the year and I realised that I was emancipated long ago. It wasn’t one particular point either it was several,” (pg 258). The walk-a-thon was one of those points, “I remember feeling socially out of it at St Martha’s, yet when the fiasco of the walk-a-thon happened, I realised I wasn’t,” (pg 258), after Nonna telling her about Marcus Sandford she realised that her illegitimacy “had never been my cross. I had only made it mine,” (pg 258) and with her culture she realises that she is not where the people have placed her but “an Australian with Italian blood flowing rapidly through her veins,” (pg 259). Josie realises that no matter how perfect she is people will still talk. She realises that it only matters “who I feel like I am – and I feel like Michael and Christina’s daughter; Sera, Anna and Lee’s friend and Roberts’s cousin,” (pg 261).
Katia Alibrandi, nonna, is always fighting with her daughter, Christina Alibrandi, and her granddaughter, Josephine Alibrandi. Josie thinks that it is because her grandmother loves to meddle and is forever worrying about what people think and talk about. “She tends to forget that all she does to mama when they’re together is nag her about the way she’s bringing me up,” (pg 34). Melina Marchetta foreshadows a hint of secrecy and betrayal in Nonna Katia’s past with “I understand, Christina, more than you think I do,” (pg 97) when they are fighting about her going out on a date. It was not until Josie gave in to the urge to ask about the photos in Katia’s house that Katia told anyone about the mysterious Marcus Sandford, even if it was only a fraction of the whole story.
She told Josie about her life in a country where no one could understand her. “You do not know how much I hated Australia for the first year. No friends. No people who spoke the same language as me,” (pg 114) Melina Marchetta foreshadows the same hint of secrecy and betrayal with another clue; “Francesco couldn’t afford to come home and then go away again…I was…alone for Christmas,” (pg 200). Then when Josie was at her Mother’s birthday party it was said “conceived a week before which was Christmas day,” (pg 215) Josie was furious at her Nonna because she had been such a hypocrite, and it took her a week to realise that she did not care. Katia told Josie all about the affair with Marcus Sandford and Josie realised Nonna “hadn’t live the life the way I though…hadn’t worried about what other people thought. She had taken chances. Broken rules,” (pg 226). Katia Alibrandi, by discussing her journey of identity with her granddaughter, has re-established the relationship with her daughter and granddaughter.
Everyone expects Jacob Coote amount to nothing and he would be more than happy to prove them right, he was proud of getting bad marks and thought that it did not matter because he was going to be a mechanic. Right from the beginning he had decided what he was going to be because it was easy and no one expected more from him. That was until he met Josephine Alibrandi. She was smart, and he did not think he was. “You’re intellectual. I’m an idiot,” (pg 249). When the started going out he started to change, “I think that during that year Jacob got a bit more ambitious than he used to be,” (pg 260). He did not want to be a mechanic that worked all day and complained about house payments and petrol prices, he wanted to be a mechanic that has a variety of options, and he wants to discover his identity.
“Because you opened me up to this whole new world out there. I don’t want to become a mechanic and work all day long and then at night go to the pub and marry someone just like me and have two children and whinge about housing payments and petrol prices and the economy… But this year I realised, because of you, that there is more to life… I want to step outside my circle and look at other options. I don’t want to be stereotyped because of the school I attend or the suburb I live in,” (pg 251)
Melina Marchetta has written a novel, Looking of Alibrandi, which shows the youth of today that in order to discover your identity you need to have travelled the journey of life, however short that may be. She uses John Barton, Josephine Alibrandi, Katia Alibrandi and Jacob Coote to show that no matter how old or how bad you think you life is you can still make the decisions to make it better or worse. She cleverly states that when you no longer have the ability to dream you have nothing left to hope for. “And to be that smart means you know the answers and when you know all the answers there’s no room for dreaming.”
Looking For Alibrandi By Melina Marchette
The novel, Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, focuses on a 17 year old teenager who has an Italian background called Josephine Alibrandi. Josephine is really two different people at the beginning and the end of the book. In the beginning, Josephine is overdramatic, poised to react to her Italian background and her illegitimacy. At the end of the book, Josephine began to achieve emancipation. She has learnt that she has blown her problems out of proportion, that not everyone is about to execute her for being Italian and illegitimate. Josephine's interaction with the other characters has brought this about. She faced quite a number of challenges in her final year. They include the arrival of Michael Andretti and her change of perspective and attitude towards Nonna Katia.
In the beginning of the novel, Josephine's attitude towards Nonna was very atrocious. Despite the fact that she disliked Nonna, she still has to come to her house every afternoon after school. One of the reasons that she disliked coming to Nonna's house was that she despised the idea of being force-fed every afternoon of her life (Quote: "I was force-fed when I arrived. Force-fed like every afternoon of my life" page 34). Josie found Nonna very irritating. Every afternoon Nonna kept mentioning about how untidy Josie is and just to return back the favor Josie would say "It's the fashion" (page 34) just because that annoyed Nonna so much.
However, as time past, Josie found Nonna's secret. That is the relationship that Nonna had with Marcus Sandford went further than Josie had been told. Although Josie was suspicious and asked Nonna whether she was in love in with him, Nonna wouldn't acknowledge it (Quote: "Were you in love with him?" Josie asked. "Don't be silly, Jozzie. I was married." page 199). At last Josie discovered the truth. In close proximity to the end of the novel Josie realizes that there was much more than love between Nonna and Marcus. She realizes that Nonna had slept with him. After finding such a shocking truth, she was unquestionably furious at Nonna for treating her mother the way she did and all the time she had done worse (Quote: "You had the hide seventeen years ago to treat Mama the way you did when all the time you had done worse." page 217).
At the end of the novel, Josephine began to understand Nonna's feelings towards Marcus. Nonna had said that Francesco treated her like one of his farm animals (Quote: "Your grandfather Francesco treated me like one of his farms animals". page 222). She had learnt to be more accepting and tolerant towards Nonna although Nonna had made a wrong decision according to the Italian community's perspective. Nevertheless, Josie had changed and had begun to not care what other people think about her, her family and her illegitimacy. From then on,...
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