An analytical piece for the essay topic above.
Sonya Hartnett’s Thursday’s Child is set in the time period where the Great Depression was highly prominent. This time period in which money was scarce and employment was difficult to obtain along with the arid and exhausted plot of land in the outback the family is forced to live in have undoubtedly resulted in the Flute family becoming dysfunctional. Dysfunctional families are families which do not function well or as they should. A dysfunctional family can develop as a result of many reasons; stress and dependency on alcoholic beverages are just two reasons, both of which are demonstrated in the novel.
The time period of The Great Depression in which the Flute family lives in is a key factor in pushing the family into a state of dysfunction. Due to the low demand for workers, money was even scarcer and any opportunity for work would have been quickly accepted. This left those with wealth in great power over the general public. Devon who was the oldest son always wanted to purchase a pony despite the poor living conditions. When Vandery Cable visited and offered a labour intensive job to thirteen year old Devon, he “nodded eagerly, his dark eyes shining.” Despite the somewhat generous offer of an occupation, Devon at the age of thirteen has already begun to attempt adult tasks. Devon was given unsatisfactory training and soon sent back with no pay whatsoever after allowing two pigs to escape from his poorly constructed fences. Vandery cable was a wealthier individual and saw that Devon’s parents were away from him so no protection could have been provided. Cable had the opportunity to pay Devon but he chose not to and acted on his vulnerability and willingness to work given the difficult times. This further renders the family dysfunctional. The time of The Great Depression meant males as young as thirteen years old were forced to look for an occupation and those in power are able to manipulate those without it. Devon in this case was used for manual labour, given no payment in the end and would not have known what to do in such situation due to the fact of no proper role models around. This experience would stay with Devon for a prolonged period of time and due to an absence of role models, Devon’s learning curve was hampered greatly.
The Flute family’s despondent and arid plot of land given by the government is another of the defining features that result in the family becoming dysfunctional. The land is unfortunately depleted of its nutrients as the narrator Harper describes, “Our land’s exhausted,” which means farming is extremely difficult and farming successfully to be self-sufficient is even more of a challenge than what is already is This resulted in the Da and Devon being forced to trap rabbits for the food and attempt to sell them despite the countless other people who also have rabbit pelts. Being unable to produce a sufficient and reliable income, all of the Flute family is greatly affected. As a direct result from the exhausted land in the rural landscape, the parents are left with no money to provide for basic needs. They are barely fed with killed rabbits, the children are forced to leave their schools to take up family work and basic necessities such as clothing are failed to be paid for which all result in a high stress level of the parents; a major reason in dysfunctional families forming.
As a direct outcome of the harsh landscape and the time of The Great Depression, the usual family dynamics were thrown off balance. Older children in the novel were forced to take up the roles of their parents. The environment around them turned the Flute family into one without proper role models and children forced to take up responsibility in order to survive. The narrator Harper Flute herself states that she “understood that my mother and father were gone” and that “Audrey and Devon had become all I had.” Her parents were gone because of trauma caused from the landscape around them. Harper states that her parents were no longer the same and seemed like they had lost their physical presence after the shanty falls and the youngest daughter Caffy dies from falling into a well.
In Sonya Hartnett’s novel Thursday’s Child, the Flute family is made dysfunctional as direct consequences of exploitation of children, trouble sustaining basic needs and family dynamics becoming thrown off balance. The Flute family was left without role models, reasonable income and an inability to properly function. From the conditions of the landscape and difficult times the Flute family lives in, the family is no longer able to properly function.