Letterbox-Gate by Liza-Mare Syron
In Letterbox-Gate by Liza-Mare Syron we have the theme of identity, connection, shame, honesty, reconciliation and acceptance. Narrated in the first person by Syron herself the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Syron may be exploring the theme of identity. Syron can trace her family back to the First Fleet on her mother‘s side and her father’s family have a long tradition of living in Balmain. However there is no sense from Syron that she feels a complete identity with her family history. She may feel connected to them but does not feel as though she can identify with them, particularly her Aboriginal side. Something that remains constant throughout the story. She can’t define what being aboriginal means and only knows of her own history living in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Which for many would be good enough.
The theme of shame is evident in the story. Not from Syron but from her mother who does not want the letterbox, which symbolizes someone who might be from an Aboriginal background (Syron’s father). In fact so hurt is Syron’s mother that she forbids her husband from putting the letterbox on the gate of the house. Something that as the years pass Syron’s mother accepts was wrong and she has reconciled with this part of her life. However at the time she was not accepting of being told she may have Aboriginal history. It is also interesting that Syron never considers herself to be Aboriginal until her uncle Brian tells her she is. It is a part of her life that she just was not conscious of. Though she accepts who she is even if she doesn’t fully understand it.
The scene of the ferry boat is important as for the first time in her life Syron is being challenged about being Aboriginal. She does not have answers for the young woman’s questions and questions herself as to whether her true identity is being Aboriginal. Unlike a lot of Aboriginals at the time, Syron did not really suffer because of the fact she was Aboriginal. Though she was limited to the type of acting roles she could get. This may also be important because at the time there where not many Aboriginal playwrights. So the work was not there for Syron. In fact this seems to be, along with the awkwardness she felt from the woman on the ferry, the most difficult period in Syron’s life. Syron is remarkably honest too. Giving the reader full access to her father who was a womanizer and whose children with other women were not recognized by Syron’s mother.
The end of the story is interesting as Syron reconciles the differences she feels about not being the complete or storied Aboriginal and is happy to accept from the 70s onward she felt aboriginal. It does not bother Syron that she does not know the full history of aboriginal people in Australia. She accepts who she is and realizes that others are the ones who may have the problem if they are not able to feel that Syron can validate herself. If anything from the end of the story the reader realizes that Syron is comfortable with who she is even if other Aboriginals might question her ethnicity. As far as Syron is concerned this is not her problem. It is other people’s problem. That is how confident Syron is about her life.