Distinctive Voices of Day’s and Dawe’s Characters

Through the use of techniques, writers are evidently able to create a wide range of distinctive voices and bring people and their experiences to life. When distinctive voices are created, it helps the reader to understand and perhaps even relate to the character of the text. The use of distinctive voices ensures people to be created and their experiences to be brought to life. “The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender”, written by Marele Day, is strategically able to create distinctive voices and experiences throughout the novel by incorporating a variety of characters including Claudia Valentine, a female investigator in big city Sydney, Australia, and Harry Lavender, the antagonist of the novel and the boss of Sydney’s underworld.

Day’s strong and clever use of techniques, effectively create a range of significant, distinctive voices. In contrast, “Weapons Training” by Bruce Dawe is able to create a very strong, distinctive voice that brings to life the character of a strong-minded, stern drill sergeant, as he delivers a monologue to all the young new recruits.

Both texts have used a deliberate choice of techniques, and creation of the distinctive voices within the texts.

Claudia Valentine is the main character of Marele Day’s hard boiled crime fiction novel; ‘The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender’. Claudia’s character is quite significant as there are very few detective novels written and published that have a female private investigator as the main character. For the entirety of the novel, the style is set in first person narrative voice.

This indicates the reader with be seeing the events through the character’s eyes and hearing about them through her distinctive voice. Through the setting of Sydney and visual images such as the empty bottle of whisky, ashtrays of cigarettes, the naked light bulb and the blond in the bed, Day establishes a racy, contemporary urban city scene with the pessimistic and derisive voice of the narrator to be our guide. Throughout the opening scene, we are ignorant of the narrators sex and name. This is purposely done to play with the responders assumptions in response to gender stereotypes and to build the tough, determined and witty voice of Claudia Valentine.

Claudia’s voice changes throughout the novel. The opening passage establishes Claudia’s voice as being that of a typical private investigator. This is to aid to the crime fiction genre idea. This anchors the reader’s perception of the character as firmly part of the crime fiction genre. Her tone is formal when speaking in a professional capacity, for example, when speaking to the Levack family; “I’ll come straight to the point Mrs Levack. I’m investigating the death of Mark Bannister , who lived over there in that flat.”. This formal, straight-forward and firm voice is Claudia’s public voice. However, behind the strong ‘private investigator’ wall she holds up, Claudia has a very private voice which is hardly exposed to anyone but herself. We see this change in voice when she is with Steve Angell.

Her language changes and softens somewhat in her interactions with Steve. She comments throughout the text; “The brightest thing about the day was that Steve had dropped into it”. Claudia’s ‘private’ voice also has a hint of seductiveness when she is communicating with Steve; “He was stunning. As tall as me, if not taller, with eyes like the pools you find beneath waterfalls. It was all I could do to stop myself taking off all my clothes and diving in.”. Claudia’s private voice also reveals a lot of love, worry and attachment to her two children her live with her ex-husband Gary. This is revealed through a phone call Claudia makes to Gary after she fears for her children’s safety; “To hear their voices, to know my flesh and blood was safe. My babies.”

In Day’s novel, another character with a distinctive voice is revealed, however this ‘distinctive voice’ is much different to the voice of Claudia. Harry Lavender, the antagonist of the novel, is the boss of Sydney’s crime underworld. Harry’s voice is distinctive in the poetic tone of the language used. The use of imagery and figurative language allows the reader to perceive Lavender as being a sophisticated and powerful character; ‘The people hold sprigs of lavender, like rosemary on Anzac day.’ Harry Lavender’s voice is powerful and evocative, as he describes how he will be remembered when he dies, and how he has higher power over police and authority; ‘police allow me safe passage’. Even though Harry is dying, his body decaying, in the same way he has brought about the moral decay of the city, his voice is still ominous and commanding.

Harry is a powerful man who has built his fame on an empire of corruption. He is used to being in control and ironically, we see Lavender unable to control the most important aspect of his life, his own body. Day uses various techniques in this passage to convey the voice of the crime boss, Harry Lavender. Day uses poetic and figurative language such as: ‘It is my image that is reflected in that glass.’ Day also uses metaphor in: ‘It is my body crumbling, not the city.’ to describe the way that the cancer is consuming and destroying Lavender’s body. Consecutive, short, and simple sentences are used to construct Lavender’s voice. And finally, repetition is used in the final line to reinforce Lavender’s command over the city and his influence in this place; ‘ They will remember me, oh yes, they will remember.’

In contrast, related text: Weapons Training by Bruce Dawe is able to bring a drill sergeant to life as well as his past experience through a distinctive voice. Dawe’s poem opens in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of the drill sergeant’s monologue. This device captures our attention and gives a sense of immediacy of being on the spot. This is effective as we are not just being told about the sergeant, we can actually hear him. The sergeant questions the young soldiers but doesn’t wait for answers. He talks so fast that recruits can hardly take in let alone think about it. This is effective as the soldiers and the readers have to learn to react reflexively.

The thinking is done for the readers/soldiers and they have to absorb what is said without thinking about it and do what they are told. The drill sergeant speaks in a fairly broad Australian idiom, using the language and clichéd humour of the average Australian. Some of the colloquialisms used, such as ‘you’ve copped the bloody lot’ or ‘worse luck’ are specifically Australian. The dramatic quality used also helps to create a distinctive voice within the poem. He is the ‘typical’ bullying, sarcastic drill sergeant, so it’s easy for us to vividly imagine him and his voice. His language is colloquial; ‘are you a queer?, that’s right grab and check/the magazine man’ . His language is also full of clichés including sexual references; ‘your trusty weapon, a mob of little yellows’. Dawe’s techniques provide a very distinctive and strong voice for the poem. Through a strong use of techniques including Australian idiom, colloquialism and tone, both Marele Day and Bruce Dawe are effectively able to bring people and their experiences to life through distinctive voice.