Are You Different by Mia Francis
In Are You Different by Mia Francis we have the theme of adoption, connection, culture, racism and freedom. Narrated in the first person by Francis herself the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Francis may be exploring the theme of adoption. Francis adopts Ricky from an orphanage in Manila. It is clear that she is protective of him. Something that is noticeable by Francis’ desire to hold Ricky in her arms. This may be important as it suggests not only is Francis protective of Ricky but she may also be trying to make a connection with him. She wants him to be the centre of her life and for her to be the centre of Ricky’s life. It also looks like Francis is there for Ricky. Whether it is because he is afraid of the leaves falling or if he gets into trouble in school. Francis is there.
The theme of culture is evident in the story. Francis takes Ricky to many Asian events, even if he has no interest in attending. The fact that Ricky can’t distinguish between the Asian people he meets also suggests that he is being westernized. Ricky’s involvement in school life is generally happy. Though he does have a breaking point when one boy goes too far and hurls racial slurs at him. Something that Francis can understand. She knows that Ricky is a good boy and that like everyone else he can only take so much. Ricky mixes well with other children and his friendship with Daniel is an example of this. Ricky considers Daniel to be an honorary Asian. This too might be important as Ricky could be identifying Daniel as being different but acceptable to him. We already know that he has asked Francis was she different to him.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that Francis picks Ricky up from the orphanage and he is dressed in western clothes could act as a sort of foreshadowing. Throughout the story Ricky rejects his Asian heritage until he is old enough to be curious. The bullying in school serves to highlight the difficulties some children will encounter because they look different to others. The bell-boy could serve to highlight the exciting possibilities that Ricky might encounter in Australia. His life will begin afresh and he may very well have endless opportunities that he would not have gotten in Manila. The fact that Francis’ husband is only briefly mentioned could suggest that Francis was responsible for Ricky’s upbringing.
The end of the story is interesting as Ricky appears to have shifted in his beliefs. He wants to go back to Manila and see his family. Something that Francis is open to. This may be important as Francis is expressing a deep comfort in her relationship with Ricky. She does not fear that she will lose Ricky or that he will not return to Australia with him. If anything Francis has allowed for Ricky to discover who he is. She has at no stage held him back. Francis has been honest with Ricky and allowed for him to develop at his own pace. The return to Manila is an extension of this. Throughout the story Francis has ensured that Ricky has had freedom and has not pressurized him to think in any particular way.