What are the values, attitudes and beliefs embedded in the poem "Smalltown Dance" by Judith Wright? What attitudes does the poem reflect about these discourses and how might the era in which the poem is written shape these discourses?
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Judith Wright wrote many of her poems in the 1950s when there was a consciousness in the Western World of the rights of women. However, attitudes - and that would be of women themselves as well as their male counterparts - did not support the philosophy of equality.
The value system, as reflected in Smalltown Dance is so well entrenched, being "an ancient dance" that it is hard to even imagine any other way. It is " some impossible world." Of course, if the women do not even believe they can expand their views because they know " where danger lies" then things will never change and they will continue to "keep things orderly."
The women do appear to be aware that there is the potential for change but, even those who do try to leave and manage to shrug off some of the restrictions and "struggle from the peg" never make anything of it as they do not "travel far." The women realize that even though it "might symbolise / something," the means of going beyond don't exist. The fact that the women are concerned about "the household budget" also reveals their limited financial means, there isn't enough money to repeat efforts if mistakes are made. It will certainly "not stretch to more."
It is clear then that it is society's realities and embedded ideas (typical in this era) that contribute to their dreams put away and being nothing more than a little girl's " glimpse of unobstructed waiting green."
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