By reading a certain print texts, readers are manipulated into accepting or rejecting additional texts. The short story “The Altar of the Family” written by Michael Welding shares many comparisons with the feature article “Boys to Men” written by Stephen Scourfield, and by reading one the reader can make clear understanding of the other. Symbolism, genre and certain values and attitudes are present in both the texts and will be further examined in the following essay to show that a readers understanding of particular print texts is shaped by the reading of previous texts.
By reading “The Altar of the Family” the reader understands that to become a man a boy has to pass certain “tests or ordeals” in order to gain “rights of passage” to manhood. This process is clearly shown in the print text “The Altar of the Family”. David, the boy in “The Altar of the Family” is under constant pressure from his father to become “more manly”. His father constantly demoralises him and on one occasion brands him a “lily-livered poofter”. The symbolism of using such words is evident in this text as lilies are something that David admires yet are extremely “girlish” in the eyes of his father, a man. In an effort to please his father David took it upon himself to kill a possum that had become a menace to his father, this would make him a man, this would grant him his “rite of passage”. The possum eventually appeared and was described as David would describe his much-loved lilies, “soft, beautiful, white in the moonlight”. The symbolism of using the same words to describe the possum like the much loved lilies shows the reader that it is against David’s morals to kill the animal of such beauty but if such a task has to be completed to gain manhood then so be it. Much to his dismay he shot the possum and in his own mind was a murderer but in the eyes of his father he would be a man. When looking for the dead possum the next morning his father greets him by saying, “What’ve you lost old man?” and this shows the reader that David has now become a man in his fathers eyes.
By reading “The Altar of the Family” the reader is led to believe that certain tasks have to be completed in order to gain manhood. This process is also conveyed in the feature article “Boys to Men” therefore displaying a comparison and understanding between the two texts, but included in “Boys to Men”, the “rite of passage” to manhood is something to be achieved by the individual, not something awarded to them, like a trophy for a winner. Symbolism is also used in “Boys to Men”. The symbolic techniques are woven into the text “Boys to Men”, by comparing the transition of boy to man, to the hit movie, Star Wars. To base ones passage to manhood on a fictional movie is symbolic in the way that Luke Skywalker is now seen as a mentor or a role model in the eyes of adolescent males, and it is these mentors that are needed in order for a boy to begin his transition to a man.
Role models are needed in order for a boy to become a man. Role models or mentors guide the youth through the difficult times and also the good times of the transition period. In “The Altar of the Family” a mentor is present in David’s life and this makes the reader understand that to become a man a reliable mentor is needed, in this case it was David’s father. It is shown in the short story that this is not the most ideal relationship because the father is a rather domineering and uncouth character pushing his son to complete tasks through fear rather than will. In the feature article “Boys to Men” the point is stressed that a reliable mentor is needed to guide the youth. This shows that the participation of particular role models in society are valued by many people. Leeuwin Ocean Adventure was set up for this reason as it provides boys with mentors (other than fathers) needed to guide them through their transition. By reading “The Altar of the Family” the reader understands that it is valuable to have a role model to guide a youth to manhood. “Boys to Men” also puts forward the same ideologies as “The Altar of the Family” but it is also shows that it is indispensable to have a role model that cares and takes heed of the youths needs.
Societies expectations pertaining to “rites of passage” are distinctive in different societies. In the short story “The Altar of the Family”, it is considered manly to murder animals and this is one expectation that the father places on his son as a “rite of passage”. The traditional aboriginal passage to manhood was going through tribal law as stated in “Boys to Men”. In this day and age tribal law has diminished and now one “rite of passage” for some aboriginals is being locked up, thus societies attitudes towards some aboriginals have altered over time. Many contrasting people and cultures have different attitudes concerning “rites of passage”, some may think that passing a driving test is a passage, while others may think that turning eighteen is another “rite of passage”. Both the texts show that there are different “tests or ordeals” to be taken to become a man thus shaping the reader to understand that by reading one text concerning “rites of passage” they will be shaped into accepting or rejecting other texts of the same genre.
The genres of both texts are almost identical. Although “The Altar of the Family”, is a fictional short story it still conveys the same genre that the feature article “Boys to Men” expresses, that genre being a boys quest for manhood. By the reading of these texts the reader is shaped into accepting the ideologies put forward by both the authors. Now the reader can be critical of other texts such as “The Blooding” written by Peter Goldsworthy. From the reading of the two previous texts the reader can now comprehend whether he/she chooses to except the ideologies put forth by Peter Goldsworthy. The readers understanding of the texts has been shaped by various issues underling the techniques used by the writers, the main issue is an adolescent boys’ struggle for manhood. By understanding the two previous texts the reader would now also accept the issues put forth in “The Blooding” as that too also explores a boys passage to manhood.
Due to all the above stated points it is easy to see that a readers understanding of particular print texts is shaped by his/her reading of other texts. By reading “The Altar of the Family” a reader is presented with a boys struggle to gain manhood, his “rite of passage”. This ideology is portrayed in greater detail in the feature article “Boys to Men” therefore the reader is shaped into accepting the viewpoints of both authors. This is clear evidence to show that a readers understanding of particular print texts is shaped by his/her reading of other texts.