The Whitest White Girl by Prue Axam
In The Whitest White Girl by Prue Axam we have the theme of history, heritage, pride, innocence, acceptance, freedom and injustice. Narrated in the first person by Axam herself the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Axam may be exploring the theme of history and heritage. Axam can trace her family genealogy back seven generations to the First Fleet and to two African Americans, John Martin and John Randall. Something that Axam is proud of though her grandfather appears to be a little shocked that his ancestry includes African-American slaves. So innocent is Axam at the time that she had to ask her parents what a slave was. It may also be significant that Axam embraces her heritage with open arms. She is again proud of her ancestry. Something that the reader suspects is not the same for her grandfather who may be more settled in his views and as such may not necessarily be as embracing of the fact that he has black ancestors. Especially with Australia being a predominately white country.
It is also evident that Martina and Randall have been incorrectly treated. They fought in the America War of Independence, on the British side. Yet they were let down by the British, treated unjustly, and shipped to Australia. Despite this Axam remains proud of the fact that she is of African descent. Even though she might consider herself to be the whitest, white girl such is the gap between her, Martin and Randall. This too may be important as despite the passing of time Axam is able to identify in some way with Martin and Randall. Her identity becomes more solid now that she knows who she is. Which may be unlike her grandfather who would, because of his age, find it more difficult to accept he was of African descent. Which may be the point that Axam is making. She may be suggesting that a person’s identity is easier to accept when one is younger.
The fact that Martin and Randall fought for the British, on the promise of freedom, could suggest that both men valued their freedom. That both men were ill-treated while they lived in America. They were after all slaves who had no rights. The promise of freedom would have given both men rights they would not have previously had. Unfortunately for both men they were on the losing side. With Britain losing the War of Independence. It may also be important that Martin served two more years than was necessary before he received his freedom. This could highlight the fact that some men in Australia had to wait longer to be free.
The benefit to Axam of knowing her ancestry is also evident in the story. She has a deeper understanding of race than she previously had. She may look white but is in fact of African descent. Something that others who know Axam might have difficulty with. It is also important that throughout the story Axam has accepted and embraced her ancestry with pride. This is not necessarily something others with the same ancestry might necessarily do. Some people might consider themselves to be less if they discovered they had African ancestry and in reality feel embarrassed. Just as Axam’s grandfather might feel. However Axam is the opposite. She is a woman who now knows who she is and is secure within herself with this knowledge.