Table of Contents
- ANALYSIS OF THE THEME
- Pragmatism vs Idealism
- Unity vs Disunity (Relationships; Us vs Them)
- Gender roles
- Death and destruction vs conservation and preservation
- ANALYSIS OF THE CHARACTERS
- HEATHER DIXON-BROWN
- HARRY JEWELL | power | money | responsibility | business |
- PIPER ROSS
- ANDY DIXON
- ANALYSIS OF QUOTES
- Essay 1 : ’The characters in Extinction suffer as a result of their own inabilities to compromise.’ Do you agree?
- Essay 2 : “You cannot reduce what happens between people to numbers you record on a chart.” Extinction is about the difference between theory and reality. Do you agree?
- Essay 3 : “You cannot reduce what happens between people to numbers you record on a chart.” Extinction is about the difference between theory and reality. Do you agree?
- Essay 4 : Hannie Rayson’s play ‘Extinction’ explores the deep levels of personal conflict that individuals live with. Discuss.
- Essay 5 : ’In Extinction, morality is negotiable.’ Do you agree?
- Essay 6 : “People are not independent entities.” How does ‘Extinction’ illustrate this idea?
- Essay 7 : ’The characters’ personal lives in ‘Extinction’ are at odds with their professional decisions.’ To what extent do you agree?
- Essay 8 : ’We learn the most about the characters in Extinction from how others view them.’ Discuss.
- Essay 9 : “You’ve got to believe in your own species, Piper. In the human capacity to achieve great things.” How does the play explore Harry’s idea?
- Essay 10 : ‘Extinction demonstrates the conflict between the desire to take action and the need to follow rules.’ Discuss.
- Essay 11 : “You do what you can to keep an endangered animal alive.” Is this the main message of Extinction?
- Essay 12 : ‘In Extinction, Andy is the only character who is deeply interested in conservation.’ To what extent do you agree?
- Essay 13 : ‘In Extinction, the characters find no resolutions to their problems.’ Do you agree?
- Essay 14 : ‘In the play, the natural world and the human world struggle to exist in harmony.’ Discuss.
- Essay 15 : ‘All the characters in Extinction are motivated by self-interest.’ To what extent do you agree?
- Essay 16 : ‘Extinction explores the idea that life is fragile.’ Discuss.
- Essay 17 : ‘The women in Extinction are portrayed as being weaker than men.’ To what extent do you agree?
- Essay 18 : The characters care more about the animals in their lives than they do about their personal relationships. To what extent do you agree?
ANALYSIS OF THE THEME
Pragmatism vs Idealism
The play Extinction, by Hannie Rayson, focuses the majority of its narrative on the complex topic of environment and species conservation. The building of the narrative hinges upon the complex interplay between the different characters’ points-of-view on this controversial issue and highlights two clearly opposing philosophical positions at work: pragmatism and idealism. The philosophical approaches represented here are important to understand, as they are opposing and therefore very difficult to reconcile. This is evident with in the struggles that occur between the characters, whose primary focus it is within the narrative is to convince or persuade the others to get onboard. Because both the moral and practical stakes explored in this play are highly applicable to the real world, it raises many interesting questions for the audience regarding who is right and who is wrong, and consequently forces them to examine their own views.
In order to better understand the conflict between the characters in the play it is important to recognize the difference between someone who is a ‘pragmatist’ and someone who is an ‘idealist’. Very simply, pragmatists are preoccupied with doing what is practical in the moment, regardless of an external code of morality that might exist within society, saying that things ‘should’ be a certain way. Pragmatists can easily be perceived as immoral, as they are often willing to break the rules (the status quo) in order to achieve their ends. Idealists on the other hand live by a belief in a moral code and are guided by the limitations of this code in everything that they do. This can lead Idealists to become quite rigid in the way that they approach life (for example, never using plastic shopping bags, even when there is no other option available), because of the Idealist’s uncompromising commitment to their code of beliefs.
In ‘Extinction’, we see evidence of both types of characters. Piper is clearly an Idealist, someone who has a very set standard of morality. These standards are primarily filtered through her job as an environment officer, something which is, for her, more of a way of life rather than a way of earning money. For example, Piper is rigidly concerned with her ‘carbon footprint’, and about saving both animals (domestic and wild) and their habitats. Furthermore, Piper is clearly willing to suffer for these beliefs, as is evident in the fact that she won’t allow herself to fly home to see her ill dog despite her desperate need to do so. That is, until Harry, a classic example of a Pragmatist, gives her the permission to do so.
Piper: What about my carbon footprint?
Harry: We’ll plant some trees.
Piper: (clearly excited) I could just book a ticket?
Harry. Yep. Do it. Book two. I’ll come with you.
As a Pragmatist, Harry is interested primarily in finding immediate and practical solutions to whatever problems he encounters. For him, there is no set moral code outside of himself forcing him to sacrifice his ultimate desires. Unlike Piper, his desire to save the tiger quolls in the Otway Ranges stems not from an altruistic concern for the environment or the world, but rather because of the personal meaning they hold for him.
Piper: You can’t get everything you want, you know.
Harry: Why not?
Piper: Life isn’t like that.
Harry: Mine is.
Although Andy Dixon-Brown appears to be brutally pragmatic when it comes to the euthanasia of the injured tiger quoll brought in by Harry, he is in fact an idealist like Piper, someone who has strict moral code that he does not deviate from, even if it means facing emotional suffering because of it. This is clear in the way that he applies his sense of right and wrong to his own life once he learns that his disease has become active and that he has limited time left. “He told me that my life is over. No, that’s not true. I asked him how I could make it over, but he wouldn’t play ball on that one. Even when I said to him, people bring their dogs to me and I put them down. Because that’s the loving thing to do. That’s the caring, humane course of action, Doctor Wynn.” (pg. 95) Andy’s sister however, Professor Dixon-Brown, potentially demonstrates a more complicated approach to morality. Her role as the director of the university affiliated CAPE Institute shows that she may, at some point, have been driven by an idealistic concern for nature and the environment, similar to Pipers. However, her dogged ‘at-all-cost’ pursuit of the development of the Dixon-Brown Index, a tool by which academics can determine if an endangered species is worth saving, also indicates that she has pragmatic tendencies. When Piper tells Dixon-Brown that her probability-based Index equates to “assassination by numbers” and calls her Index a “calculus of death”, Dixon-Brown retorts “This is living in the real world.” (pg. 84), which is something that a pragmatist such as Harry Jewell might say.
Dixon-Brown becomes more visibly aligned with Jewell as the play progresses, in particular in the way in which she tries to manipulate the circumstances around her to protect her position as the head of the CAPE Institute, and to conceal her affair with Jewell from Piper. When Harry Jewell comes to her with a proposal for a project to save the tiger quoll from extinction, he tells Dixon-Brown “I liked the sound of your index. Showed me you were living in the real world.” Dixon-Brown’s reply is starkly revealing of her underlying pragmatic tendencies. “No point squandering your money on a creature that has passed the point of no return. I’m an ecologist. Not an environmentalist. Use my head, not my heart.” (pg. 99) Similar to Harry Jewell, Dixon-Brown’s concerns lie more with the economic realities of her work. They are both also willing to make ‘for the moment’ changes to their position in order to satisfy their own ends, compromising whatever moral codes might inconveniently be standing in their way. This is shown when Dixon-Brown, scrambles to save her reputation from the vengeful email sent out by Jewell’s estranged wife, exposing the fact that the project to save the tiger quolls is not only funded by money made from coal mining, but also that she is having an affair with Jewell. “‘The CAPE Institute, headed by Professor Dixon-Brown, receives substantial research funding from Powerhouse Mining. The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Harry Jewell, is having a covert sexual relationship with Dixon-Brown…’” (pg. 131) Dixon-Brown takes the unethical step to have the email deleted from the server to suppress it and save herself. She confesses the action to Piper, but only so she can confirm that Piper has been sleeping with Jewell, to manipulate her into thinking that it is her reputation on the line rather than Dixon-Brown’s, and to encourage her to go back to San Diego. “I’ve had a conversation with the San Diego Zoo. They’re keen to get you back…Since it’s over between you and Andy, there’s not a lot keeping you here.” (pg. 133) Dixon-Brown exhibits the actions of a true pragmatist in this incident, disregarding the lives and feelings of the other people involved in order to save herself.
Hannie Rayson’s play ‘Extinction’ not only displays through the relationships between its main characters a cross section of the spectrum of opposing thought between pragmatism and idealism, but it also explores the ways in which many people can hold echoes of this conflict within themselves.
Unity vs Disunity (Relationships; Us vs Them)
The relationships between the characters in ‘Extinction’ provide a fascinating hotbed for an exploration of the theme of unity and its opposing force, disunity. On a larger, macro scale, this theme is also played out in terms of the struggle between the ‘natural’ and the ‘human’ worlds, conservation and destruction. Humans are as much a part of the natural world as any other species on earth however, across time and through the development and advancement of technology and other systems, humans have gradually extricated themselves from the confines of nature. Whilst there are obviously many positives to the resultant human advancement, in recent times we have become increasingly aware of the devastating risks that human civilization poses to the natural world. ‘Extinction’ uses this premise as way of examining some of the different kinds of relationships, including that of humanity’s relationship with nature, that are potentially threatened by the rise of human dominance. Using the tiger quoll as a recurring motif, the audience is forced to contemplate what is really at stake when humans pit themselves against nature and opt for disunity over unity as long as their own needs are met, a position which Rayson seems to be suggesting is both unsustainable as well as selfish.
In the relationship between Piper Ross and Harry Jewell, the audience witnesses two characters drawn together in a relationship where unity, it seems, is unattainable. When they first meet it is clear that they embody opposing philosophical approaches: Piper is an idealist, a committed environmentalist who has dedicated not only her education and working life to protecting animals and caring about the conservation of nature, but who also lives by a strict moral code towards this end that she is prepared to suffer for. Harry, on the other hand, is a pragmatist, a brash, rich entrepreneurial businessman who has made his money in coal mining, an industry which, although vitally necessary to supply the modern world with energy, is characteristically held in negative disdain by people like Piper. Piper’s instinct on their potential for a deeper relationship is insightful. “We live in such different worlds. That’s why this relationship can’t work.” (pg. 114) Initially Harry and Piper’s relationship pulls into the spotlight some of the conflicting issues central to the play. The disunity represented in their opposing career choices and underlying philosophical approaches to the world is immediately evident: yet surprisingly, despite this, they are also strangely attracted and drawn to each other. However, it is this exact push and pull between opposition and attraction, unity and disunity, harmony and disharmony which can, ironically, be responsible for the making of the most dynamic relationships.
As Piper and Harry get to know each other better, they discover that the other is not as foreign as was at first assumed. In fact, instead of hurtling away from each other based on everything that is different between them they draw closer together because of their common sentimentality for animals. This leads them to consumate their growing attraction in the ultimate act of physical unity- sex. “Because when you make love like that, you wanna do it again.” (pg. 110) Although their relationship is almost definitely doomed to fail in the long term, their union represents the truth that there is usually some empowering commonality to be found within most human beings: all you have to do is find it. At the very least, their attraction, no matter how brief, highlights the natural tendency human beings have to seek out connection over separation and that it is possible even where significant philosophical differences exist.
On a much larger scale, ‘Extinction’ uses the relationships between the characters to illustrate the fact that the ideological ‘Us vs Them’ dichotomy that exists between larger entities such as mining companies and environment conservation groups does not produce solutions to the bigger ecological problems currently facing the natural world. This dichotomy is represented in the play through the clash that occurs when Harry wants to fund a special project to save an endangered species using money that comes from his mining company ‘Powerhouse Mining’. Whilst the irony of using the profits of mining to fund a species conservation project is not lost on the audience, they are also challenged to contemplate the truth that real solutions to the frightening reality of species extinction and loss of habitat are not going to be found unless the stakeholders on both sides of the divide unite to find them. The kind of defeatist thinking evidenced by taking an ‘Us vs Them’ stance can be seen in the way that Andy Dixon-Brown is quick to dismiss Harry Jewell as ‘Mr. Evil’ despite the fact that he actually desires to give something back to the environment. “Your Harry Jewell…Your Mr. Evil.” (pg. 80) Harry is just as quick to judge and categorise Andy. “He’s the kind of greenie who’s always saying no. No dams, no mines, no roads.” (pg. 114) The truth that no one benefits from disunity is further highlighted in Harry’s following statement. “You’ve got to believe in your own species, Piper. In the human capacity to achieve great things.” (pg. 114) The fact that neither Harry Jewell or Andy Dixon-Brown are willing to resolve their ideological differences is symbolic of the stalemate that really does exist between opposing sides of the debate, and which sadly means that escalating problems are never properly addressed until it’s too late.
Gender roles and the power dynamics that underline them are highlighted in ‘Extinction’. Overtly traditional gender roles for men and women are not a primary focus as both of the female characters, Professor Dixon-Brown and Dr. Piper Ross, hold doctorate levels of higher education and are therefore representative of modern, western civilization’s progress regarding gender equality. What is interesting is the contrast between Dixon-Brown and Piper, both successful women in their own right. The complex, power-driven character of Professor Heather Dixon-Brown is juxtaposed with the bleeding heart, emotionally sensitive, earth mother character of Piper Ross.
As a woman who has worked her way into a position of considerable power as the head of CAPE Institute, Heather Dixon-Brown’s divorce, combined with her throw away lines such as “Can you please find me a man to marry? I want to be a housewife.” (pg. 85) exposes within her a deeper sense of personal uncertainty or insecurity than she projects. Dixon-Brown is initially shown to be a very strong personality in the sense that she does not express her emotional vulnerabilities- at least not in the beginning of the play. Instead, she comes across more like the kind of transactional business man you would expect to find at Harry Jewell’s mining company. “Species are like commodities…You should only invest in those that are going to give you a good return.” (pg. 99) In fact, Dixon-Brown’s preoccupation with her appearance, and her need to find a partner is a chink in her armour which allows us to peek underneath and realise that she is not as confident and unfeeling as she appears. “Every give weeks you spend two hundred and sixty-seven dollars on hair removal? You could get a tree lopped for that.” (pg. 85)In fact, despite her carefully constructed outward appearance, Dixon-Brown begins to dissemble when her relationships with both Harry Jewell and her brother Andy go sour. Previously on good terms with her brother, Dixon-Brown is left reeling after a conversation with Andy over her concern regarding his break up with Piper turns into an attack on her for becoming involved in project funded by Harry Jewell’s mining company. “I won’t have a relationship with anyone who is prepared to be a pin-up girl for coalmining. And even though you’re my sister, you have to know, you did this. You destroyed the relationship between us.” (pg. 122) Dixon-Brown is barely given a moment to absorb this conflict when she sees Piper and learns that she has spent a night in the forest with Harry Jewell installing camera equipment and suspects correctly that they have been together sexually. Dixon-Brown’s true insecurities are revealed when Harry comes around and she tries to casually question him about what happened between he and Piper in the forest. When Harry turns down her offer to come with her to a conference on the Sunshine Coast and addresses their relationship, her final defenses come crashing down.
Dixon-Brown: I just want to know, Harry. I don’t play games. If you are rejecting me, I’d like to know why. I think you owe me that. I think you need to say that you would prefer a younger woman-
Harry: Dix, for godsake.
Dixon-Brown: Of course! You’ve never been with a woman who has pubic hair.
Triggered by her sexual jealousy, to Harry’s dismay Dixon-Brown’s feelings rapidly spiral out of control. “You had sex with Piper. I don’t care what time zone you live in. That’s a betrayal.” (pg. 131) Her steely veneer of self-control is placed under further pressure when she is sent an email from an anonymous source threatening to reveal the fact that she is not only funding a conservation project with money from coalmining, but that she is also sleeping with the company’s CEO. Dixon-Brown’s suppression of the email and her lies to Piper about it in order to get her to admit to having sex with Harry show her to be infinitely less sure of herself than she leads others to believe.
In comparison to Dixon-Brown, Piper is initially perceived as being more traditionally feminine. She has strong, protective and nurturing instincts, which have the tendency to become overwhelming. An example of appears in the opening scene of the play when she desperately tries to save the fatally injured tiger quoll brought in by Harry Jewell. “I checked the gums. And the eyes. I didn’t want to stress her any more than necessary. I did everything I could.” (pg.72) Unlike her partner, Andy Dixon-Brown, Piper appears to be less practical and more emotional when it comes to saving the lives of animals. When he euthanises the tiger quoll without obvious emotion because “I had no choice,” (pg. 75) Piper reacts badly. “You did so. You just opted for the most convenient one.” (pg. 75) This is also seen in the way that she reacts to the news of her dog’s illness. “Beast is a person. He’s like a brother…If you loved someone and they were dying, you would do everything you could to help them.” (pg. 90) However, over the course of the play Piper is shown to be stronger emotionally than either of the Dixon-Brown’s. Her sensitivity, whilst not always practical, also enables her to be more resilient in the face of life’s more extreme moments. Instead of wanting to run from Andy just because he is terminally ill, Piper shows strength and resilience in wanting to be with him. “I won’t be pushed away. I won’t…I have a pain in here (her chest) that you could think of facing this without me.” (pg. 140) Piper may be more emotional but it is her ability to feel that enables her to move through and deal with her emotions rather than be broken by them. This positivity is captured in the last moment of the play, when she sees a tiger quoll outside, ending the performance on an optimistic note. “Andy. Look.” (pg. 141) The final message of hope is delivered in the final stage directions after Pipers last words, suggesting that the answers to all of our survival lie not in the cold, rational world of the male element, but in the female attributes of being able to feel and care for each other. “One the monitor on the back wall, the camera catches a small creature staring into the frame. Its nose twitches. Its black eyes gleam. It is a tiger quoll. Its heart is beating.” (pg.141)
Death and destruction vs conservation and preservation
Death, loss and destruction are paralleled with desire, conservation and preservation in ‘Extinction’. The play exposes the vulnerability of both the human physical body and the earth as a ‘body’ to death’s destructive forces. The onset of Andy Dixon-Brown’s terminal, genetic illness raises issues around our individual choices to choose how we handle our own deaths. As a veterinarian, Andy has been trained to approach death in a particular way, one that takes into account a range of ethical questions regarding the prolonging of life when no positive outcomes can result. This is first shown in the opening scene when Harry and Piper try to save the life of the tiger quoll that Harry has accidently hit with his car. Whilst they are heavily emotionally invested in saving the quoll’s life, Andy can see that with its current injuries, the animal would only suffer if allowed to live. “The quoll has a broken back. It’s paralysed from the waist down. It’s not fair to try and resuscitate an animal in this condition.” Although Andy can see the humanity and lack of choice in his decision to euthanise the tiger quoll, Piper and Harry’s reactions reveal that they do not. “You don’t just pull out your needle and dispose of the problem…You do what you can to keep an endangered animal alive.” (pg. 74) Harry’s reference to the quoll’s status as an endangered species brings the central issue of the play into focus
Similarly, Andy is not interested in having his own life extended just for the sake of it, although Piper takes a different approach. “If you loved someone and they were dying, you would do everything you can to help them…because life is precious.” (pg. 90) When Andy discovers that his life expectancy has been dramatically altered, he deliberately pushes Piper away because he knows that she will want to take care of him and uses his professional idealism to pragmatically evaluate what is best for her. “You know what she’s like. She’ll stay up all night looking after a bloody possum…She’ll want children. I’m not going to ask her to waste her life. I’m not doing that.” (pg. 86) Professor Dixon-Brown applies her own brand of pragmatism to the Dixon-Brown Index which is, according to Piper, “a calculus of death” (pg. 84) designed to produce an accurate estimation of whether a species is worth being saved from extinction. Refusing to agree with the logic behind the Index, Piper determinedly points out to Dixon-Brown her arrogance in assuming that humans have the right to make such a decision. “That’s not our call. They’re all worth saving.” (pg. 83)
The play’s preoccupation with extinction, death and destruction and thus the need for conservation and preservation is not only demonstrated in the example of the fate of the tiger quoll and other endangered species of animals. The destruction of the environment due to mining calls in to focus the larger question of humanity’s own fate. Lurking behind each serious conservation issue raised in the play lies the truth that humans, and their devastating impact upon the environment, are responsible for creating it in the first place. Dixon-Brown’s crass equation of species as commodities illustrates this. “Species are like commodities Mr. Jewell. You should only invest in those that are going to give you a good return.” (pg. 99) Juxtaposed with this example is the opposite dilemma of how to create actual genuine change, evident in the debacle that occurs when Harry Jewell tries to fund a project to restore the tiger quoll’s habitat and invest in saving the animal from complete extinction using the profits of his coal mining company. The complicated hypocrisy, compromise and contradiction involved in this project highlights the very real difficulty that humans have when faced with a world riddled with ever increasing, self-created problems and threats to the earth’s survival. Although the play ends on a positive note when Piper sees another tiger quoll, the somber message of Extinction seems clear: nature will prevail. However, whether or not human beings are able to get it together in time to prevent their own fate as an endangered species is a question that is, as yet, still unanswered, and one that only time will tell.
ANALYSIS OF THE CHARACTERS
| professional ethics | power | progressive femininity | pragmatic |
- Dixon-Brown is constructed to be in juxtaposition against other characters. Pragmatic where Piper and Andy are idealistic, Dixon-Brown is also the embodiment of progressive female identity where Piper is more of a conventionally constructed feminine character.
-She is initially presented “reading messages on her phone” and “consulting papers in her briefcase” (75) even though she is at home. This creates the impression that Dixon-Brown is being extremely focused on her career, such that the boundary between personal and professional life does not exist anymore.
-Through the interpersonal conflict between Andy and Dixon-Brown which arises from the contentious tiger quoll project, the diametrically opposed attitudes toward environmental and economic concerns are revealed. While Dixon-Brown has practical concerns, “money has to come from somewhere” (120) and is recognizes it is impossible to always “bask in ideological purity” (120), Andy is adamant about “[fighting Dixon-Brown] until the day [he] can no longer stand up” (121).
-While Piper is known for the majority of the play as Andy’s dutiful and caring girlfriend, Dixon-Brown is a recently separated career woman. Her single minded pursuit of professional accolades outweighs all consideration for her own personal life, this is made abundantly clear as she states plainly, “I have no room in my life for a relationship. There is no empty space that is boyfriend shaped.” (79).
-As an embodiment of practical sensibility, it is befitting that Dixon-Brown openly boasts about her “PhD in Statistics. In case I forgot to mention it.” (83). Moreover, her logical and emotionally detached character is emphasized when she professes, “I’m an ecologist, not an environmentalist. Use my head, not my heart.” (99). While Piper is caring and idealistic to a fault and would lavish tender loving care or medical attention to all animals to prolong their lives, Dixon-Brown’s mentality is decidedly in opposition to this. She objectively maintains the stance that “we have to be careful not to dramatise ourselves as saviors; snatching a poor little animal from the jaws of extinction” (98).
– As a manifestation of progressive feminine identity, Dixon-Brown refrains from developing an emotional attachment to the environments and ecosystems she studies. It may be said that she is closely guided by statistics and facts, choosing to intercede for endangered species if and only if there is enough evidence to suggest that there is a high chance of success. Seeing as “there is only so much funding to go around”, Dixon-Brown promotes the importance of an “objective measure that allows [scientists] to say which species are worth saving and which are beyond the point of no return. (83). She asserts the pressing need for “a strategy that will deliver the highest probability of success” (84). This, to her, is “living in the real world” (84).
- She is portrayed as a woman who has power over Piper and the other employees at CAPE. At the same time, she is still subjected to other authority figures in the bureaucratic university system. Through this, Rayson elucidates Dixon-Brown’s fundamental flaw, her self-serving vanity.
-She laments about her vice-chancellor meeting, complaining that “apparently we’re at war”, that the university must “[defend their] territory” (76). The tension between Dixon-Brown and her superiors is evident in the way she ridicules and minimizes the vice-chancellor’s dramatic claims, “it was like we were in the White House Situation Room” (76).
– Her resentment for her superiors like Stuart Decker is also evident as she spitefully remarks, “some mug spends all her time in her dingy little office writing your applications so you can win the Humboldt Award and get a suntan” (77). While Dixon-Brown is willing to be self-sacrificial, forgoing her love life and time spent in nature, she is especially particular about being publically recognized for her efforts and being awarded credit where it is due. This is an allusion to her calculating, power hungry and self-centered nature.
-She uses her superiority over Piper, “I’m the director of the institute. I call the shots.” (125) in order to bend Piper to her will. Dixon-Brown intends for Piper to abandon the “wild goose chase” (124) tiger quoll project in favor of the project pertaining to the “decline of the manna gum woodlands” (124). However, it is unclear whether Dixon-Brown is truly concerned about the “demonstrable outcomes” (124) or whether Dixon-Brown is trying to eliminate her main competition to vie for Harry’s affection.
-She unfairly takes advantage of her position as director to “[do] something very unethical” (133). While she deleted the compromising email from everyone’s email inbox to cover up her own misdeeds, she insinuates that Piper is “[the] member of staff [who] was having a covert sexual relationship with Harry Jewell” (133). Using this as leverage, Dixon-Brown requests that Piper “step aside from the project” and return to the “San Diego Zoo” because
“they’re keen to get [Piper] back” and “there’s not a lot keeping [Piper in Australia]” (133).
-Dixon-Brown complains, “I’m just like any other head of department – forced to sell out to any sleazebag who walks through the door with a fat wad of cash” (131). This alludes to the pressure she faces as the director, to provide financing for the multiple projects that her institute runs. Through the phrase, “any sleazebag”, we know she is resentful and hates this aspect of her job.
-Despite being constructed as a progressive female character, Dixon-Brown is depicted as being conscious of outward appearances. Even though she claims to not have enough time to date or find a boyfriend, she spends “two hundred and sixty-seven dollars”, “every five weeks” (85) on personal grooming. She is quick to provide superficial reasons to explain why Harry refuses to pursue a serious romantic relationship with her, “you would prefer a younger person?” (128) and “you can’t stomach a woman who stands up to you?” (129).
- Dixon-Brown is also keen to discharge her duty as a Director seriously, but her career is not motivated by her passion for the environment. As the plot progresses, Rayson makes clear that her personal romantic interest in Harry supersedes the duty she has as a Director. This is a key motivator for her to forgo professional ethics and integrity to sabotage Piper.
-She takes pride in being a self-sacrificial Director of CAPE, “I run the institute. I don’t have the luxury of spending months at a time in the bush.” (77). This line, delivered in a pragmatic, cold and pointed way, is in direct conflict with Piper’s idealistic assertions about conducting sample collections herself.
-Dixon-Brown is fundamentally concerned with fulfilling her duty to the employees who “rely on [her] to come up with their salaries” (79). Readers and audience members are aware that financial considerations are truly the fuel that keeps Dixon-Brown going. The central idea of intricately interwoven relationships comes to the fore as she relates her job to her employees’ “families and “mortgages” (79); this is a manifestation of her deeply pragmatic outlook. Just as economic interests cannot be divorced from environmental concerns, Dixon-Brown’s job is equally about advancing research projects and advocating for the well-being of her staff. On the other hand, this line may also be interpreted as egotistical and arrogant, as she inflates and magnifies the importance of her role.
-She adopts the vernacular of a business woman while in conversation with Harry to dissuade him from going forward with his idealistic project. With confidence, she claims “species are like commodities… invest in those that are going to give you good return” (99) She initially puts on a show of scientific objectivity to refuse to partner with Powerhouse to do scientific research, claiming that “we’re not guns for hire” and adamantly rejecting Harry’s “dirty money” (100). Yet, by the end of Act One, she announces “CAPE is going to oversee a project to save the quolls” (107).
-Dixon-Brown preaches to Piper about the importance of not compromising professional ethics and integrity, “it would be very, very inappropriate for you to get involved with Harry Jewell” (125). Yet, this is ironic, presenting as inconsistent and a direct contradiction of her romantic pursuit of Harry. She herself had already transgressed the professional boundary by calling him “Harry” instead of “Mr Jewell” (101), she has even audaciously suggested that they “have dinner [together]” (102) in Act One. In Act Two, he appears in her apartment “late at night” (125), “half dressed” (131) “in his boxer shorts” (126) for “a nightcap” (126).
-Even though she ominously warns, “there will be repercussions for Piper” (131), readers don’t know if Dixon Brown is speaking from the perspective as an objective work superior, or as a competitor for Harry’s love and attention. Furthermore, don’t know whether Dixon-Brown is simply venting her anger on the innocent Piper because she is bitter and disdainful about “[falling] for [Harry’s] scam” (131).
| power | money | responsibility | business |
Harry’s care for animals and responsibility towards the environment is manifested in the play’s exposition.
-Harry is first seen carrying a tiger quoll in a “bundle wrapped in a towel” (p65). This off stage action of having wrapped the animal with a towel and rescuing it after colliding into it demonstrates a caring and tender aspect to Harry’s character.
– As Harry recalls his childhood pet fondly, “Errol… Errol Flynn” (p67), we are made aware of the fact that Harry’s character is not simply a profit seeking businessman, he is a human being and he has a heart. These nostalgic childhood memories of the tiger quoll that his mother used to keep intensifies the guilt Harry faces for having injured one, and ensures that he is also able to empathize with the injured tiger quoll. This is evident in his line, “she’s in a shitload of pain” (p67) and how he is later seen “[stroking] the quoll with a tenderness that could break your heart” (p69).
– Rayson depicts Harry’s character as being basically concerned for the tiger quoll’s imminent extinction. For example, Harry claims directly, “I don’t want to be responsible for killing the last one of these things.” (p70) The use of repetition of the words “last one” in “Maybe this is the last one. There is always a last one, isn’t there?” (p70) highlights the burden that weighs heavily in the mind of Harry’s character. This suggests Harry’s awareness of the dismal reality of tiger quoll’s endangerment. While revealing his character’s caring and tender nature, these lines simultaneously demonstrate Harry’s desire to avoid all blame and guilt. From the play’s exposition, audience members and readers alike are made known of Harry’s complex character.
– Harry’s cold stare at Andy after watching him euthanize the quoll, coupled with his accusatory and indignant “you do what you can to keep an endangered animal alive” (p74) reveals Harry’s attitude to animals. Just like Piper, he is idealistic and hopeful, wishing to save all endangered animals and extend the lives of the tiger quolls. This is harshly juxtaposed against Andy’s pragmatism, whose care for animals is evident in the way he cuts short their suffering.
– Furthermore, at the crux of the play’s conflict and climax is Harry’s project to do “whatever it takes” to “fix up that forest” (p93). His gesture, “shrug”, reveals his impulsivity, as well as his blasé and nonchalant attitude toward money. This demonstrates, on the one hand, his serious commitment to care for the environment. He is portrayed as generous and magnanimous, using any and all resources at his disposal to fulfil his duty to the environment. On the other hand, this may also be interpreted as an act to show off to Piper how rich he is so she would be impressed by his wealth and kind heart. Such manipulation is not beneath this smooth talking, influential CEO of Powerhouse.
– Harry’s care for the environment is evident in the detailed vision he lays out for Dixon- Brown. He has lofty and idealistic plans in mind for the forest, “a cat eradication program”, “habitat restoration”, and “a comprehensive survey of all the plants and animals” (p100). In order to assure Dixon-Brown of his commitment, Harry is quick to throw out “two million dollars. Just to get you started.” (p101). This implies his capacity to finance the project. It could be interpreted as fulfilling his duty to care for the environment or it could also be interpreted as another attempt to flaunt his wealth to impress Dixon-Brown.
As such, audience members are not totally certain about Harry’s motives, whether he’s truly concerned about the animals and the environment, or if he’s simply using the project as a pretense to get closer to Piper and Dixon-Brown.
– Early on in the play, audience and readers are introduced to Harry as an educated man, one of privilege, who “did postgrad at Columbia” (p69), a prestigious and exclusive Ivy League university in America. While he casually and simply says this as a self- introduction to Piper, this comes off as an attempt to impress her, and possibly find some common ground with her to relate to her more.
– Moreover, his nickname for her, “koala girl” (p70) is playful and flirtatious. When paired with his references to her “perfume” (p71) this leaves no more doubt in the minds of audience members and readers that while this exchange/relationship might have begun as strictly professional, it is currently in the realm of a personal relationship. We question his true motives and intentions when he offers Piper his business card and invites her to “call [him]” and asks if there is “somewhere [he] can read about [her] koala project” (p74). Is this a professional relationship or a personal, intimate one?
– Similar techniques of flattery are employed in Harry’s initial meeting with Dixon- Brown, when he pays her a compliment, “I liked the sound of your index” (p99). This demonstrates how he knows just the right words to say to the right person to gratify and please them, to win their favor, to ingratiate himself with Dixon-Brown. Harry’s and Dixon-Brown’s relationship might have started out professional, in her office. However, as their conversation enters the personal realm in her apartment in a later scene, Harry is seen “smiling charmingly” (p105) and bragging about how he “build Powerhouse from scratch” (p105).
| professional obligations | personal relationships | respect & care for nature |
- Piper’s respect and care for nature shines through in her compassion for all the animals that she personally tends to in the play.
– She talks “to the animal” and soothes it in calming tones, “Ssh ssh. It’s okay. You’re gonna be okay.” (p66), even though the injured tiger quoll will not be able to understand her. Moreover, Rayson’s detailed stage directions inform us of how Piper “delicately unwraps a section of the blanket” (p66), to show that she is careful not to inflict more harm on the animal and is really treating the tiger quoll as precious and valuable. This demonstrates to readers and audience members her benevolent, compassionate, and kind nature from the start of the play. This initial presentation of Piper’s character as a volunteer at Andy’s vet clinic symbolizes her desire to contribute positively to the environment; we are aware of her motivation to alleviate the pain and suffering of animals with her tender loving care.
– She is known to be caring to a fault, with Andy begrudgingly complaining to his sister “she’ll stay up all night looking after a bloody possum” (86). This extravagant care Piper showers on the possum is further exaggerated/ caricatured as she is later seen carrying “a possum around in a papoose” (86) and “talks to the possum” (90). This caring disposition, however exaggerated/ ridiculous, is driven by a deep sense of respect/ dignity for animals. Just as she thinks of her pet Beast as “a person… like a brother” (90), so does she treat the other animals she comes into contact with. After all, “if you loved someone and they were dying, you would do everything you could to help them” (90).
*Despite being superficially about curing Beast’s cancer, “if you loved someone and they were dying, you would do everything you could to help them” (90) is a line filled with an abundance of dramatic irony. Seeing as audience members and readers know the grim reality of Andy’s illness and impending mortality, Piper is blissfully unaware of this. Yet again, her mindset of being caring to a fault is at odds with Andy’s stubborn desire to keep this illness and dismal prognosis a secret in order to avoid being a financial and emotional burden to Piper.
– In her conversation with Dixon-Brown she affirms her reverence and love for the great outdoors. With a tone of endless wonder and heightened emotions, Piper declares in a philosophical manner, “you can’t experience awe in the city” and “you have to be in the wilderness to feel reverence… be someplace where life is unfolding beyond human control” (78). In this way, she substantiates her refusal to be “an ecologist from a desk” (77) and solidifies the fact that she has a staunchly different mindset from Dixon-Brown, who attempts to convince her to get a “research assistant” (77) and “delegate” (77). While working closely together within the same CAPE Institute as Dixon-Brown, Piper thus demonstrates bold individuality and is characterized as someone who is unafraid to stand up to her boss, no matter how “awkward” (77) it is.
- She is portrayed as a highly qualified professional, whose passion fuels her career.
– Given Piper’s compassionate nature, is hardly surprising that as a “zoologist” (68) who is “on leave from the San Diego Zoo” (70), she still finds time to be a “volunteer” (70) whilst also working at “The CAPE Institute” (70). Clearly, her passion for animals is not simply a job to her, it’s not simply about earning money off being employed as a zoologist. Her passion for helping animals is a personal matter too, something she finds fulfilling and meaningful, and would happily do for free.
– In contrast to the professional opinions of Dixon-Brown (who created the Dixon-Brown Index to determine “which species are worth saving and which are beyond the point of no return” 83) and Andy (who “euthanizes the quoll” 74), Piper holds firmly to the belief that “all [animals] are worth saving” (83). In fact, Piper’s desire to save all the animals are motivated by her own emotions. In her own words, Piper explains her emotional reaction, “sulking is part of my repertoire… that was like fury” (80). These references to her own emotions demonstrate her deep care for helpless animals. It stands in stark contrast to the logical, statistic driven, pragmatic Dixon siblings. Piper’s emotions are also manifested/ resurface in her sharp and incisive criticism of her colleague, “This is assassination by numbers”, “this is signing the death warrant”, and “Your index is the calculus of death” (84). Such differences in professional opinion are further dramatized as audience members know that these characters share close relationships in their personal lives, with Piper being Andy’s girlfriend and Piper attending Dixon-Brown’s birthday dinner with the Dixons at “the restaurant” (84).
– Similarly, she does not swallow her disdain and displeasure at Harry Jewell’s mining business. She criticizes Jewell’s business for “turning this country into a big empty hole” (92) and causing “massive damage” (92).
- At times, Piper functions as the voice of Rayson, providing insightful social commentary regarding our relationship with and responsibility to the environment
- Somber and ominous in tone, Piper educates Harry about how “millions of tiny relationships hang off the fangs of the quoll… when those relationships fall apart ” (70).
- On the surface, this seems to be a comment on how intricate our ecosystems are. While this calls our attention to the need for us to appreciate and respect our natural environment. The way Piper cuts herself off midsentence also increases our awareness of problems pertaining to the extinction of certain animal species, and reinforces that this is truly unimaginable. Furthermore, the ecosystem is utilized as a symbol for the interconnected, fragile, and vulnerable relationships that exist between the characters in the play, foreshadowing the conflicts that will come to fore later on in the play.
– Rayson is careful to construct Piper as an idealistic, “humorless ideologue” (115). For example, she declares with conviction “we all exist in relationship with one another” (115) and “you’ve got to believe in your own species” (123). Such an explicit/ obvious announcement of her beliefs clearly demonstrates her mindset that humans are at the root of environmental problems and solutions.
– However, Piper’s undying belief in mankind’s ability to rectify existing environmental problems is depicted as overly hopeful and disconnected with the reality of life, as seen in her broad and vague statements about “everyone transforming the way they live” and “making a difference” (113).
- Moreover, Piper’s tenuous relationships with other characters gives readers and viewers alike a clearer idea of the delicate balance required to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships.
– As an embodiment of fragile and conflict-ridden relationships, it is befitting that Piper’s first interactions with Andy are characterized as overly defensive and accusatory. Privately, Piper retorts resentfully “What is your problem?” (73) and complains that “you totally undermined me” (73). Piper’s displeasure at having her assessment of the quoll questioned by her boyfriend is evidence of the pride she has in her professional identity and duty. Passionate and assertive in nature, Piper is a woman who ought not to be crossed/ who will not tolerate being doubted.
– On the one hand, in “I’m sick of one day at a time” (104) displays Piper’s love, commitment, and loyalty to Andy. It expresses her desire to plan for their future together, to make difficult and significant life choices to be with him. However, unbeknownst to her, Andy’s illness means that planning for the future would ultimately be futile. Such dramatic irony foreshadows the inevitable sense of heartbreak and anguish that is inherently tied to Andy and his romantic pursuit with Piper.
- In the midst of Piper’s tumultuous relationship with Andy, she also has an affair with Harry Jewell. On the one hand, this would be an obvious transgression of professional norms as he is funding the tiger quoll project that she is working on. On the other hand, this illicit affair is a form of outright betrayal which Piper acknowledges by swearing Jewell to secrecy, “I don’t want [Dixon-Brown] knowing about this” (111). Later, Piper even admits her guilt, “I knew it was a mistake… I knew it would compromise the whole integrity of the project” (133). Viewers and readers aptly question exactly why Piper is so determined to work on the tiger quoll project (“This is our chance to get an important project up and running” 125): is she motivated by her professional duty and passion for animals or has she simply been influenced by the seductive Harry Jewell?
| conventional masculinity | fragility of life | idealistic | pragmatic |
- Andy is especially idealistic in the way he upholds professionalism and ethics, constantly turning a blind eye to the allure of money and power.
– Andy’s resistance to money, power, and efficiency is evident in his critical stance towards modern dairy farms. He laments about it being “all computerized” and being relegated to that of “a robot” (82). To him, the power of technology and the temptation of money is meaningless. In fact, he dreams of returning to developing countries which are not as rich or modern, like “El Salvador. Or Zambia. Somewhere where it means something to be a vet.” (82)
– His idealism also manifests as “ideological purity”. Andy distances himself from any and all activities which harm the environment, “I don’t want to be with someone who would even contemplate environmental vandalism” (119) and “I won’t have a relationship with anyone who is prepared to be a pin-up girl for coalmining” (122). Significantly, this reveals that he is most particular about shutting down those who would even consider accepting Powerhouse’s funding even if the money is for scientific research.
- A conventionally constructed masculine character, he also embodies pragmatic worldviews where the care and survival of animals are concerned. Where the female characters are seduced and influenced by Harry’s charm, Andy maintains a suspicious and hostile attitude toward Jewell throughout the play.
– From the outset of the play, the stage directions carefully detail the way Andy carries himself as a professional with a sense of purpose, who “walks directly” (71) to the examination table to “expertly” assess the tiger quoll (71). He cuts to the chase in caring for the injured animal, and “humanely euthanized” (84) it. It is notable that Andy does not derive joy from killing animals; in fact, he does so only because “[he] had no choice” (75), “it’s not fair to try and resuscitate an animal in this condition” (73). In discharging his duty as a vet, he does not shy away from making difficult decisions to do what is best for the animals under his care.
– Andy adopts an aggressive tone, criticizing Jewell for his “cruise missile” (73), and confronts Jewell accusingly, “you snapped its spinal column” (74). In doing so, he holds Jewell accountable for the harm and damage he has done to the animals. In many ways, this sensible and practical mentality foreshadows the way Andy will stand up to Dixon-Brown and Piper later on in the play, for compromising their professional integrity and being tacitly complicit in the destruction the environment through accepting Jewell’s “dirty money”.
– Where Dixon-Brown and Piper compromise their professional ethics after being seduced by Harry’s charm, Andy sees through Harry’s scheming ploy and dismisses it as being “lies and bullshit” (137). Furthermore, Andy’s hostility toward Harry is evident when he disdainfully disparages, “people like [Harry] talk like [they’re] the future. But [they’re] the old world” (137). However, in the light of Andy’s imminent death, it would be more accurate to say that Andy’s idealism is a thing of the past while Harry’s exploitative attitude and business practices will be dominant in the future. Through this, Rayson intends to cause alarm, to make us face the dismal state of our environment and our apathetic attitude to it.
- He is at the center of the play’s subplot; Rayson utilizes his character’s genetic illness and romantic relationship with Piper to extend her social commentary on extinction to include human frailty, life and death.
– From Act One, Rayson introduces a point of suspense, mystery, and doom as the opening act dramatically concludes with Andy collapsing on stage. As the play progresses, we instantly realize the gravity of his condition as he is “running as fast as I can towards blindness and gibbering dementia” (97). This introduces tension as viewers and readers expect this illness, coupled with his pragmatic outlook, to complicate the already troubled relationships he shares with the other characters.
– Andy’s love for Piper is not in doubt. The close relationship they share is manifested in the way they are physically and emotionally intimate. For instance, Andy is seen “whispering to her” (80), “kissing her passionately” (81), and “scooping Piper toward him” (81). In the wake of his tragic illness, his loving response to Piper is to break up with her because “I’m not going to ask her to waste her life. I’m not doing that” (86). In fact, to soften the blow, he withholds the truth from Piper “I can’t commit for the long haul… I can’t explain why. I’m not that sort of person.” (104) and insists, “[her] life is set on the most amazing course. Don’t get stuck here.” (103) to encourage her to move on. Andy insinuates that there is something wrong with his and Piper’s relationship, but in reality, Andy loves Piper deeply.
– At times, Rayson presents Andy’s pragmatic approach as being deeply flawed. He is perceived as childish and stubborn in “I don’t need a carer” (118) and “leave me alone. I don’t want you here” (119). Andy’s unreasonable nature is worsened when he insists that “the very person you’re closest to could be so grotesquely inept in helping you” (97). In putting on this show of strength and isolating himself from others, he not only rejects all forms of help and support from characters who love him, he critically evaluates their kind effort as not meeting his expectations.
– In other instances, Rayson provokes audience members and readers alike to consider various conundrums in medical ethics. Andy is pragmatic in his approach to manage his illness. In his bid to avoid being a burden on his loved ones, he consulted his doctor about “how [he] could make [his life] over… Because that’s the loving thing to do. That’s the caring, humane course of action” (95). Readers question whether this is a form of selfish escapism, as he complains about “[lugging] around the weight of another person’s misery in addition to my own” (96).
– Rayson also encourages us to reflect on our attitudes to those who are sick in our society. Dixon-Brown’s effort to help Andy is regarded with contempt. It is the very opposite of Andy’s wishes and this is evident in Andy’s enraged and exasperated lines, “I am not going to be your ‘onerous responsibility’” and “you are relieved of any obligations toward me” (122). In the face of imminent death, we are invited to question the extent to which technological, scientific, and medical advancement is helpful to us. We are pushed to recognize that at times, the most humane course of action would be to allow those who are very sick to die with peace and dignity, in accordance with their personal beliefs and desires.
ANALYSIS OF QUOTES
Pragmatism (Rational logic) vs Emotion (Idealism)
- “If there’s one, there’ll be more.” (Piper, pg. 70)
Analysis: This line is spoken more than once throughout the play. It takes on the quality of a mantra and reflects the tenuous hope that the characters have regarding finding other tiger quolls in the Otway Ranges. The question for the audience is, is this hope based more on emotion than reason or logic than it is on emotion and the idealistic hope that a species on the brink of extinction can be brought back to life?
- “You have to be in the wilderness to feel reverence. You have to be someplace where life is unfolding beyond human control.” (Piper, pg. 78)
Analysis: Piper’s feelings about the natural environment are a stark contrast to Dixon-Brown’s, who despite also working as Piper’s boss for the same department, has become both geographically and spiritually removed from it. Dixon-Brown is portrayed as cynical, rational and scientific, a direct opposite to Piper who is emotional, connected and more instinctual.
- “We need an objective measure that allows us to say which species are worth saving and which are beyond the point of no return.” (Dixon-Brown, pg. 83)
Analysis: This quote refers to the Dixon-Brown Index, which is Dixon-Brown’s intellectual legacy. Dixon- Brown believes in objective, rational thought, and her Index aims to provide a formula for determining whether or not a species is worth being saved from extinction, based on a formula that determines the probability of its survival. The Dixon-Brown Index is pragmatic rationalism in its most grotesque form.
- “This is assassination by numbers.” (Piper, pg. 84)
Analysis: Whilst Dixon-Brown relies on the common sense indicated in the numbers produced by her Index, Piper sees only her cold, scientific, abstract approach towards something she is very passionate about. This quote highlights their different ways of thinking.
- “This is living in the real world.” (Dixon-Brown, pg. 84)
Analysis: Dixon-Brown’s response to Piper also clearly shows her approach to life and the issues explored in the play. By imposing the authority of the ‘real world’ onto Piper, she is really discrediting her and the emotions that inform her response to the function of the Dixon-Brown Index.
- “I like the sound of your index. Showed me you were living in the real world.” (Harry, pg. 99)
Analysis: It is telling that Harry Jewell responds in this way to Dixon-Brown’s Index. It reveals on a fundamental level that their ideology is quite aligned. This is a commentary by Rennie on the fact that Dixon- Brown’s professional and personal ethics has shifted, and probably quite some distance from where she originally began. It is also a way of highlighting the fact that institutions such as universities are often forced to position themselves in alignment with corporations that may in fact be ethically opposed to the issues that they raise in their academic departments.
- “No point squandering your money on a creature that has passed the point of no return. I’m an ecologist. Not an environmentalist. Use my head, not my heart.” (Dixon-Brown, pg. 99)
Analysis: Dixon-Brown’s emotionless statement does not just flag her as a cold pragmatist: it also severs her completely from her feeling self, something that women are not stereotypically known for. Dixon-Brown’s assertion that she uses her head, not her heart, can be interpreted in two different ways. Firstly, that as a scientist she is committed to being objective in order to carry out much needed and meaningful research. Or, which is more likely given the way that she uses the blunt phrase “No point squandering money…” that, in
her pursuit of personal success, she has become more of a callous, uncaring business person than Harry Jewell, who is quite sentimental about saving the forest and the tiger quolls that used to abundantly populate it. Either way, Dixon-Brown exhibits in these words the kinds of attributes we would expect to find in a stereotypical, ‘business tycoon’ personality, rather than an environmental scientist.
- “I grew up with them. We sort of had one as a pet.” (Harry, pg. 101)
Analysis: This quote reveals the reason why Harry Jewell is motivated to invest in a project to bring the tiger quoll back from the brink of extinction: he has a sentimental attachment to them, because of his childhood experiences of growing up in the Otway Ranges and keeping one as a pet. Giving Harry this trait is a clever way for Rennie to break down the audience’s expectations of his character, and to examine the complexities underlying his motivations.
- “Piper. Most people don’t have time to be the idealists you want them to be. They’re too busy paying off the mortgage and feeding their kids.” (Harry, pg. 113)
Analysis: Despite having concerns for the plight of the tiger quoll and the fate of the Otway Ranges forest, Harry is also pragmatic, something that Piper is not. However, his point is cleverly deflected by Piper who glibly replies, “Maybe you hang with the wrong crowd. I know heaps of people who spend their weekends planting trees or cleaning up riverbanks.” This exchange highlights the fact that we all have choices in the way we live, and that these choices have consequences.
- “You cannot reduce what happens between people to numbers you record on a chart. I’m sorry to tell you, professor, you can’t judge human feelings by algorithims.” (Harry, pg. 130)
Analysis: Harry’s comment to Dixon-Brown demonstrates his insightful understanding of the complexity of people. Although Dixon-Brown positions herself in alignment with Harry, in truth they are less alike than she would like to believe. Harry demonstrates more than once that he has the emotional intelligence that Dixon- Brown lacks.
- “I’m just like any other head of department- forced to sell out to any sleazebag who walks through the door with a fat wad of cash.” (Dixon-Brown, pg. 131)
Analysis: Dixon-Brown uses this as her justification for making unethical decisions that place her and her department in direct conflict with the greater concerns that lie at the heart of their industry.
Unity vs Disunity (Relationships; Us vs Them)
- “We live in such different worlds. That’s why this relationship can’t work.” (Piper, pg. 114)
Analysis: Although Piper believes that she and Harry Jewell are very different people, they are in fact quite similar. Piper uses the platitude that they live in different worlds to make an excuse for her unwillingness to engage in a relationship with him. The truth of the matter, however, is more likely that she is confused by her attraction to someone who not only works in mining, but who owns a mining company. This reveals many things: firstly, that she not only carries a lot of guilt for the part she plays in ‘destroying’ the planet (highlighted by her comments about her carbon footprint), but also that she can’t reconcile the many ways in which Harry, and she, connect. Their attraction forces Piper to doubt herself, as it makes the arbitrary boundaries that she has placed around her life and work uncomfortably blurry.
- “You’ve got to believe in your own species, Piper. In the human capacity to achieve great things.” (Harry, pg. 114)
Analysis: Harry’s statement is not meant to be antagonistic, but to someone like Piper who lays the responsibility of all of the planet’s many problems at the feet of human beings, it can only be interpreted as being so. Rayson highlights the way in which individuals with concerns about the environment can lose their sense of perspective, and often with it, their loss of hope for their own species. This is also reflected in the way that Piper refers to her dog as a ‘person’, something that indicates that she has transferred her trust in those of her own species onto a creature who is famously loyal and incapable of letting her down.
- “It’s going to be very lonely up there on the moral high ground.” (Dixon-Brown, pg. 121)
Analysis: Dixon-Brown’s comment to her brother Andy is meant to shake him loose of his inflexibility, however she herself suffers from the same character trait. This quote speaks to the idea that whilst having ideals is a good thing, they can and do separate us from others, placing tension on our relationships.
- “When I’m with you, I become like this humourless ideologue.” (Piper, pg. 115)
Analysis: This quote shows that Piper is aware of how her ideals have locked her in to a position that is not only inflexible but is also lacking in positive emotion.
“Can you please find me a man to marry? I want to be a housewife.” (Dixon-Brown, pg. 85)
- Analysis: This flippant comment made by Dixon-Brown to Piper is not meant to be taken seriously, however, it highlights the fact that Dixon-Brown sees the stereotypical role of ‘wife’ as an easy option for women, despite the fact that she has not managed to save her own marriage.
- “Dix, you know what she’s like. She’ll stay up all night looking after a bloody possum.” (Andy, pg. 86) Analysis: Andy’s comment to his sister about Piper is meant to convey the reasons why he doesn’t want to burden Piper with the truth about his illness. His fear of Piper knowing about his illness however has nothing to do with an altruistic desire not to burden her, but rather his own fear of becoming dependent (less in control) and of potentially being abandoned by Piper at the hour of his greatest need. This quote also highlights the female stereotype of caregiver.
- “Listen, you shithead, I’m the one who’s gonna have to fucking look after you.” (Dixon-Brown, pg. 121) Analysis: Dixon-Brown reveals in this quote her own fears around having to care for her dying brother (gender stereotype), whilst at the same time begging him not to push her away.
Death, loss and destruction vs conservation and preservation
- “That’s not our call. They are all ‘worth saving’.” (Piper, pg. 83)
Analysis: Piper’s emotional response to the Dixon-Brown Index reveals the more sentimental and emotional approach she has towards animals and the issue of species extinction. This is seen frequently during the play in different contexts but is especially highlighted when her beloved dog is diagnosed with cancer.
- “I can’t save the world, okay? But I can help to bring jobs and people back to my home town.” (Harry, pg. 92) Analysis: Rayson uses this quote from Harry Jewell, the CEO of Big Coal Mining Company, to highlight a commonly used piece of logic doled out by mining corporations to justify their actions around destruction of land and habitat. This is done so as to juxtapose the arguments/justifications of Piper, Andy and even Dixon- Brown.
- “Species are like commodities, Mr Jewell. You should only invest in those that are going to give you a good return.” Dixon-Brown, pg. 99)
Analysis: Again, Dixon-Brown exhibits her hard-headedness in this quote, something that seems at odds with her role, and is definitely in contrast to Piper’s softer, more emotional, sentimental and passionate nature.
- “The world has changed. And mining has to change with it.” (Harry, pg. 101)
Analysis: The fact that Harry is the one to make this statement is further evidence of Rennie’s desire to make him a more nuanced character. This would not be a stereotypical statement for the CEO of a mining company to make. In many ways, Harry Jewell is more like Piper than Andy is as both of them are motivated by their feelings and emotions, whereas Andy and Dixon-Brown are both pragmatists.
- “If you want to make a difference to ‘the environment’, you have to be rich.” (Harry, pg. 113)
Analysis: This statement comes off as being cynical, and Harry also means what he says. Although environmentalists may not like it, someone like Harry is more in a to achieve change around key issues effecting the environment than those who only have freedom of speech at their disposal. As the CEO of Big Coal, Harry demonstrates that he is able to commandeer funds and redirect the decisions of board members that might threaten places like the Otway Ranges.
- “It’s like you’re burdening yourself with the responsibility of keeping everything alive-.” (Harry, pg. 114) Analysis: Harry sees Piper’s slavishness to her ideals as being somewhat masochistic and unnecessary.
- “Big Coal does not give a stuff about climate change.” (Andy, pg. 120)
Analysis: Andy’s cutting remark has impact, however it also reveals his jealousy around the affinity that Piper clearly has with Harry.
- “Did you hear me? I have a terminal illness.” (Andy, pg. 121)
Analysis: Andy’s confrontation with his sister is the first time that he openly discusses the fact that his disease has progressed, and that he has been told he is dying. The fact that he does this with his sister shows that the siblings share a close bond, one that can withstand the emotional blast of conflict.
- “The planet is emptying. But what do you care? You have to go to drinks with the vice-chancellor.” (Piper, pg. 125)
Analysis: Piper’s harsh assessment of Dixon-Brown demonstrates that she is not blind to the hypocrisy and duplicity that she is capable of. Whilst the two of them are seen to be friendly at the beginning of the play, they grow further apart by the end as Dixon-Brown’s manipulative behaviour and their fundamentally different personalities and drives become clearer.
- “Because your index can’t measure how lonely and lost the human race is going to be.” (Piper, pg. 125) Analysis: This insightful observation by Piper to Dixon-Brown emphasises the truth that humans stand to be the biggest losers if the rate of animal extinction and habitat loss continues. It highlights the fact that human beings are not separate from the world around them, and that in not realising this they place their own future happiness at risk.
- “But the fact is, I am the only one standing between them and the forest.” (Harry, pg. 134)
Analysis: By the end of the play, it becomes clear that Harry has been holding off the more aggressive manoeuvres of the other board members at his company, who want to mine the forest and exploit its natural resources. This information comes as a surprise to Andy, as it is against ‘type’ for someone in his position. It also highlights Harry’s personal connection to his hometown, and the sentimentality with which he remembers his childhood.
- “People like you talk like you’re the future. But you’re the old world. Old privilege. Old money. Old greed.” (Andy, pg. 137)
Analysis: Andy’s statement highlights the ideological differences that he perceives between he and Harry and makes the suggestion that the world that Harry comes from either already belongs in the past or is soon to arrive there. There is a hint of foreshadowing here, indicating that unless corporations change their profit mentality into one of conservation, the world as we know it may cease to exist, and different, more terrifying reality would take its place.
- “I want to be a person who faces up to things. If you can’t face death, you can’t face life. Right?” (Piper, pg. 116)
Analysis: Piper makes this comment to Harry whilst talking about her dog and her decision to treat rather than euthanise him. At this point, Piper doesn’t know about Andy’s terminal illness, however this is precisely Andy’s fear- that she will allow her emotions to cloud her judgement when it comes to entering into a long- term relationship with him. Death is a prevalent theme in the play, and it manifests itself through more than one way: illness, destruction and extinction. While death itself is considered a negative thing, it is also a prominent theme in the play because of the ways in which people, as emotional beings, are unable to easily let go of life (either of a person, a place or even a species) and actually face it.