The Floating World opens with a dramatic monologue by Harry, lamenting the sale of Australian rain forests to a Japanese developer. Harry introduces the setting for the following nineteen scenes, a cruise ship sailing to Japan on a package tour arranged by an Australian women’s magazine. Suddenly, Les Harding appears on the stage, which is designed like a ship’s deck. Seasick, he vomits over the railing and is joined by Herbert Robinson.
Their dialogue introduces their opposing backgrounds. Les is a blue-collar Australian former infantryman captured by the Japanese and forced to slave on the infamous Burma-Thailand railroad. Robinson is a retired vice admiral of the British navy. He was never taken prisoner and comes from the upper class. While the two can bond as men, their social differences ultimately remain too strong a division.
When the Malaysian waiter appears first, he is dressed as an officer of the Imperial Japanese Army, an outfit he will don repeatedly to visualize Les’s confusion of past and present. Reading from its badly translated instruction manual, the Waiter sets up the first of his Dippy Birds. These are Japanese toys of the 1970’s and represent Japan’s postwar economic power.
Irene Harding is introduced while writing a letter home. She is a working-class housewife with a married daughter, and she is somewhat disillusioned with her husband. Irene’s intellectually shallow yet socially ambitious and racially paternalistic...
(The entire section is 612 words.)