Romulus, My Father Notes * Tone of book: Honest, blatant * Forged sense of identity; violence, work, independence, sacrifices everything for Raimond, religion, no geographical belonging. * Evocative – unsentimental. * Written in hindsight. Chronological. Quotes * “My father, Romulus Gaita, always considered himself a Romanian” p. 2. * “His face was as open as his character” p. 6. Repeated throughout the novel. Very important. Morality, values, core. * “He felt strongly enough to have her name tattooed to his forearm and to try and shoot himself when she left him” p. 8.
Juxtaposition – shows extremity of feeling that Christine evoked in Romulus. * “Such was the rollercoaster of wild emotion at the time” p. 8. Metaphor. Foreshadows highs and lows of their later relationship. * “She seemed incapable of taking care of me, ignoring my elementary needs of feeding and bathing” p. 8. Early signs of mental illness. Tech: Incongruence. Her lack of action is not fitting to the situation of having a helpless baby – shows how affected she was by her illness. * “The eucalypts of Baringhup, scraggy except for the noble red gums on the river bank, seemed symbols of deprivation and barrenness” p. 4. * “To a European or English eye it seemed desolate” p. 14. No sense of belonging. Romulus’ dislocation to the landscape. Negatively emotive language. * “He asked the man who greeted new arrivals whether there were any other Romanians… He sought them out and they quickly became friends” p. 14. Communication. Considers himself a Romanian. Sense of belonging begins. * “From the beginning his friendship with Hora went deeper” p. 16. Metaphor. Reflects the significance of his friendship over a lifetime. “Perhaps for good reason, or perhaps merely an expression of their prejudice… ” p. 16. Repetition creates uncertainty in the narrator’s tone. Low modality. * “A dead red gum stood only a hundred metres from the house and became for my mother a symbol for her desolation” p. 23. A is singular. No other trees. Mental illness prevents people from belonging. * “The peppercorns to be found at almost every settlement in the area, were planted as though to mediate between local and European landscapes” p. 23. Closest to European trees. He sees the life, possibility and beauty. “Without thinking, responding with the instinct of an immigrant unused to tinder-dry conditions of an Australian summer, he set fire to the stook in order to kill the snake” p. 28. Older Raimond – benefit of hindsight. Non judgemental tone. Doesn’t yet belong to the Australian landscape. * “He and others attributed his survival to my father’s prompt and sensible action” p. 29. Redemption. Juxtaposition of this quote and the quote above; stories highlight not belonging. * “I doubt I would have coped without the dogs” p. 30. Allows him to gain some sense of the love and stability he is missing from his mother. “I was glad for her physical, feminine presence, which comforted me more than food” p. 31. Odd for readers when juxtaposed with her neglect. Hyperbole. Reflects unconditional love Gaita has for her. * “Sometimes she was obviously and deeply depressed. Desperately lonely… ” p. 31. Repetition of ‘depression’ and ‘desperately’ shows empathy Gaita has for his mother’s behaviour – hindsight. Emotive language. * “She had the arresting presence of someone who experienced the world with a thoughtful intensity” p. 31. Highlighted adjectives demonstrate the power Christine had over the young Gaita and her engaging personality. “Could not support her struggle against her demons” p. 32. Metaphor for her struggle with her mental illness. Sarcastic tone shows inadequacy of awareness of Christine’s illness. Reinforces the enormous barrier of illness to any kind of normal existence. * “In that vast landscape with only crude wire fences and a rough track to mark a human impression on it she appeared forsaken. She looked to me as though she had returned from the dead, unsure about the value of her achievement” p. 32. Same landscape – descriptions of landscape changes, depending on sense of belonging. “My father and I settled into life at Frogmore with four animals, Rusha the cow, Marta the cat, Orloff the dog, and, most importantly, Jack the cockatoo” p. 35. Makes a connection with animals. Strong bonds. Isolation – act as friends. * “My father and I cried for him, and for many days I thought my chest would explode with grief” p. 40. Hyperbole. Reflects intense relationship. Grief over dog as opposed to mother, Establishes previous belonging with dogs. Receives stability and comfort from them, but not from his mother. * “Over and again he asked himself why had it turned out so? When would he be free of these troubles? p. 42. Rhetorical questions. Builds a sense of desperation. * “’Take one or two,’ he said to my mother. ‘But not so many. Leave them for Raimond. ’” p. 44. Direct speech. Used only when he’s sure of himself. * “He hated lying and believed that only a rigorous truthfulness could give a person the inner unity necessary for strength of character” p. 48. The deductive use of logic and emphatic use of ‘only’ in this statement reinforces strong opinions held by Romulus, especially in relation to morality. * “He was particularly anxious about failings in my character because he feared that I would be like my mother” p. 48.
Omniscient narrator. Reinforces how Raimond has reflected upon his father’s actions – hindsight. * “Sex, of course, but also, or perhaps together with that, rock and roll” p. 59. Context: Rock and roll very meaningful at the time during a conservative society. Sexual ideals of people at the time challenged. Youth considered to be disrespectful to others. * “I owe to Hora the development of my interest in ideas” p. 72. * “I know what a good workman is; I know what an honest man is; I know because I remember these things in the person of my father, in the person of his friend Hora, and in the example of their friendship”p. 4. * “She also heard voices for which she suffered a course of electric shock treatment that gave her no relief from the torments of her hallucinations” p. 77. * “Alarmed, I ran outside, right around the house… hoping to find someone, ominous though that would have been, rather than accept that my mother was made. Of course there was no one” p. 84. Complex structure of this passage shows the seamless shifts between the adult and child Raimond. Innocence and understanding – hindsight. High modality. * “He could not leave her; he loved her too much.
It is likely that he felt that it was better to die than to compound the guilt, the shame and the misery with murder”. Raimond is surmising. Low modality. Paradox. * “I felt his absence” p. 95. Highlighting that his father has always been there. Constant. Father – sense of belonging to people. Never uses the word for others who come out of his life. Absence to describe his father – not belonging because at different stages of grieving. * “I remembered Mitru in his coffin” p. 97. Juxtaposition. * “’Never believe that I don’t love you’” p. 97. Brevedy.
Powerful that it caused him great pain to say it. Strong language – high modality. Direct quotation. Odd structuring of sentence. * “His work brought my father again into spiritual equilibrium… But, he was happiest in his workshop, spending little time at Frogmore. He played Romanian and Yugoslav records” p. 97. Sense of belonging and connectedness to where he was brought up. Belongs more to work than Romania. Belonging to society – begins here. Healing himself psychologically. * “Many times he told me that there are few things more important than a good name” p. 99. * “They called him Jack.
Both Hora and my father were appreciative of the tolerance shown to them by Australians” p. 100. This gave him a place in Australian society. However, it is a false sense of belonging. He is from a proud European heritage – name is very important to him. * “Character was the central moral concept for my father and Hora” p. 101. * “But for someone like my mother, highly intelligent, deeply sensuous, anarchic and unstable, this emphasis on character, given an Australian accent, provided the wrong conceptual environment for her to find herself and for others to understand her” p. 103.
Conservative period – hard for women at the time. She doesn’t fit the mould, isn’t fit to live in outback Australia. Ostracized. Gender differences – patriarchal society. A sense of not belonging. From adult Raimond – reflective tone. * “She looked so unwell, thin and hollow-eyed” p. 109. Negative connotation. Being with her reminds him that he no longer belongs with her. * “I felt awkward with her and, perhaps to reduce the distance between us, she suggested we play a tune on the jukebox… The pathos of it embarrassed and saddened me” p. 109. Detached. Show emotional gap between mother and son. Belonging dislocated him.
Not belonging. * “Working together, our sorrow lightened by the presence of a young girl representing new life and hope, we came together as son and husband with the woman whose remains lay beneath us” p. 114. Christine is not named here, only called ‘the woman’. New life. Paradox because in building together and working again they become connected – belonging. * “My father’s vulnerability changed my attitude to Frogmore. In his sighs I heard our isolation and for the first time I felt estranged from the area” p. 119. Imagery. Sighs – isolation. Prophetic phalacy – landscape connected to emotions. “Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live and is full of misery. He cometh up and is cut down like a flower. He fleeth as it were a shadow and never continueth in one stay” p. 121. About resilience. Metaphor. Found belonging through sense of belonging with others and work ethic. Lydia – sense of belonging on an intimate romantic level. * “More than anything, however, the glorious, tall, burnt-grasses (as a boy they came to my chest and sometimes over my head) moving irregularly against a deep blue sky, dominated the images of my childhood and gave colour to my freedom and also to my understanding of suffering” p. 23. Imagery. Notion of belonging here – belonging is a fluid notion. Need to belong – imperative in human nature. Passage shows us how quickly belonging can change. * “’There is no sickness worse than mental sickness’” p. 140. Mental illness – awareness exists, fluid or perhaps even irony. * “I remember his strong, bare, sun-darkened arms on either side of me as I sat on the petrol tank… The sight of his muscular arms protected me against their terrible meaning” p. 140. Symbolism of his arms repeated. Symbolises the concept of protection and security for the young Raimond.
This passage is done in detail, and is important. Although he skims over other things, this one is deep and meaningful. Significant because it shows the qualities that father and son share. * “As he grew older it became clear that the house he had bought was not only adequate, it suited his Spartan disposition much better than a new house in which he would have seemed incongruous” p. 149. Omniscient narrator voice shows that a sense of belonging can be seen or observed sometimes more clearly by an outsider. “His respect for her independence was unusual in husbands of his vintage from their part of Europe and Milka knew it” p. 163. Marriage shows need for connection. Not a traditional marriage – role reversal. Irony – his attitude has come about because of his first disastrous marriage. He has absorbed some of the barriers to belonging between husband and wife (Christine’s desire for independence) and shaped them to become qualities that aid the process of belonging between himself and Milka. * “He longed for European society, saying that he felt like ‘a prisoner’ in Australia” p. 69. Not belonging. Simile used in order to emphasise how he didn’t feel completely at home in his adopted country. * CHAPTER 12: Last significant place for Romulus that Gaita descirbes. Maryborough became a place where, through a continuation of manual labour, Romulus still tried to find a way to belong. * “The attitude he expressed to the lone goat was the same he showed to many animals. When he saw one he was inclined to think there should be two and, if the two did not make three or more, he fretted over them” p. 186. Compassion for all animals.
Animals play a big part in his life – sense of belonging. Bonds established. * “To the joy of my father and Hora we were reunited, nervously but happily, in the mid-eighties” p. 193. Sense of belonging. Sense of family. * “So he created necessities for himself: the animals which he had to feed and the garden which he had to tend” p. 194. Repetition and use of italics. Reveals a place in which Romulus could continue to work. Essential to his sense of still belonging to his community, family and society. * “As I left he sang ‘Waltzing Matilda’” p. 195.
Sense of belonging to his country. No longer feels isolated. At one with the country. * “It was Neil Mikkelsen, the man who had been kind to my mother, and who had fallen from the haystack when my father worked for him” p. 206. Sense of belonging – cyclic ending. Ends belonging in death. Evokes him in a poignant moment – talks of his mother. Reminds him of childhood, a state where he belonged. * “My father was buried in the Maryborough cemetery, close to my mother” p. 206. In death these two people belong to each other, despite past difficulties.