In the anthology Constructing Crime Fiction: Discourse and Cultural Representations of Crime and Deviance,' Christiana Gregoriou makes the observation that the fictionalization of crime has not only become a much-loved pursuit, but also a means of analyzing society, even an excuse to do so (65). Examining a crime fiction novel will give us important insights into what perceptions of criminality were in the historical moment that the novel was written and also whether that novel worked to challenge or enforce those perceptions. In the case of The Broken Shore, Peter Temple uses the context of crime fiction to explore post-colonial issues of societal and institutional racism and classism in Australia.
While Cashin believes himself to be investigating the murder of a well known and publically loved philanthropist Charles Bourgoyne, it is slowly revealed to the reader, and Cashin, that what he is actually uncovering is a complex and deeply embedded system of oppression at work in post-colonial Australia. Temple achieves this affect by setting the reader up for a traditional whodunit; a man is dead and the detective character must investigate. However the key characters of this narrative are cleverly inverted through the course of the novel, either to symbolize the insidiousness of classism and racism or to offer up possible solutions for a better and more equitable Australia. By doing this Temple seeks to challenge dominant perspectives of criminality and point to the real perpetrators of harmful stereotypes and inequalities in Australian society.
[...] New York: Palgrave MacMillan. 65-6. Print. Temple, Peter. The Broken Shore. Toronto: Random House Canada ltd Print. [...]
[...] The poor call, well hang on, there's a waiting list, we'll get around to it sometime” (183). As someone living outside of the larger system Rebb is able to assert an important critical viewpoint of the failings of societal superstructures such as the police. Peter Temple uses the detective fiction format to question the popular perspective of criminality in contemporary Australia. Even as he lays the foundation for a standard crime novel he begins to invert elements in order to destabilize the readers accepted understandings of what constitutes crime and perspectives of crime. [...]
[...] If he does nothing the murder of Bourgoyne will “always be stuck on the boys, their families, stuck on the whole Daunt, ammunition for all the casual haters everywhere” (198). It is with this realized empathy that Cashin manages to effectively interview Vincent, a victim of the Companion's camp. While Vincent is made near voiceless by his trauma at the hands of the camp, Cashin has the patience and compassion to question him and uncover the abuse suffered by the many boys sent to the camp (262). [...]
[...] Finally Temple uses individual characters to directly question the more pernicious aspects of Australian society, to question assumptions of guilt and determine who is complicit in the injustice. Rather than mindlessly shifting blame to the vulnerable members of Australia, the poor and the non-white, The Broken Shore confronts racism and classism, finding them to be the true guilty parties in the landscape of the Australian mind. Works Cited Broadhurst, Roderic. “Aborigines and Crime in Australia.” Crime and Justice: A Review of Research (1997): 407-468. [...]
[...] This is in stark contrast to the willingness of the Cromarty community to offer up young boys of the Daunt without actual evidence of their guilt. Temple creates individual symbolic characters to provide a further critique of Australian society. Cecily Addison, the gatekeeper to Bourgoyne's personal transactions and files is aware and disapproving of the racism in Cromarty, much like most educated and middle class Australians (23). However her failure to question Bourgoyne's celebrity status or look critically at Bourgoyne's records, one of the key pieces of evidence of his guilt as well as the clue to his murder, helps to make her complicit in the overall Cromarty structure of oppression. [...]
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