A Big Life by Jenny Kee
In A Big Life by Jenny Kee we have the theme of rebellion, race, sexuality, connection, aspirations and independence. Narrated in the first person by a woman called Jenny (assumed to be Kee herself) the reader realises from the beginning of the story that it is a memory piece with the narrator looking back on aspects of her teenage years. When she rebelled against authority and sought to carve her own path in life. It all happened when the narrator was thirteen and was forced to choose Maths over Arts as a subject in school. Though the choice was made for her by her mother it may be understandably so. The mother in all possibility wishes for her daughter to become a professional rather than exploring the arts. It is also at this stage of the narrator’s life that she realizes she is attractive to boys and she is not shy about being forward. If anything the narrator has a comfortability with her sexuality from an early age.
The narrator also beings to like herself and her Chinese appearance. This may be significant as Kee could be suggesting the importance of fitting in for the teenage narrator. She does after all go to school with the intention of meeting friends rather than being educated. Also she spends a lot of her early teens with Jewish boys in Bondi. The narrator also likes French kissing or pashing with boys which would further suggest she is comfortable with her sexuality. The narrator even goes as far as telling the reader that she was prepared to go all the way with one boy but he was too scared.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. If anything the references to music suggests that the narrator, though of Asian extraction, is comfortable westernizing herself. She has adapted well to life in Australia any may be first generation Asian-Australian. This comfortability is further noticed by her connection with boys and her preparedness to go all the way with them from an early age. In reality the narrator is exceptionally comfortable in her skin knowing that boys think her to be exotic and sexy. The title of the story is also significant as it suggests, correctly, that the narrator is living a full life even if her mother embarrasses her at Bondi when she is wearing makeup. The fact that the narrator refers to herself as Jennifer Ackroyd might symbolize again the narrator’s westernization.
The end of the story is interesting as Kee appears to be exploring the theme of aspirations. The narrator has deliberately failed her Form Four exams in the hope that her mother and father will allow her to pursue her dreams of dress design. This may be important as it suggests that the narrator knows what direction she is going in life. She is her own person. She again is comfortable in her own skin. She may have rebelled in her youth but the narrator through her own will power has made life changing decisions on her own. Just as she may have liked it to be. She is not answerable to anybody and remains independent of others. Something that not many people are able to achieve.