Beynon’s play ‘The Shifting Heart’ explores the racial tensions arising out of post-war immigration in 1950’s Australia. The purpose of this play is to express the human and emotional effects of racism. Beynon covers a diverse range of attitudes that propagate racism as well as the individuals that are forced to cope with racist attitudes.
The beginning of the play introduces the Bianchi family, Momma, Poppa, Gino, Maria and her Aussie husband Clarry. Each of these main characters plays an important role in the play. Momma being the leader of the house, Poppa being the quiet one, Gino being the misunderstood one, Maria being the pregnant daughter and Clarry being the main character who’s ‘heart shifts’ and at the end having empathy for the Bianchi’s.
One way in which Benyon highlights these racial tensions is by conspicuously utilizing stereotypes to define characters and their actions. Elements of racism that the Bianchi’s were faced with came under things such as the name calling, where the butcher uses stereotypes to deliver his insulting nicknames such as “Momma Macaroni” and “Poppa Spaghetti”, their neighbours, who accuse them of being loud and assume that they will eat spaghetti for Christmas lunch, and even Momma and Poppa’s son in law Clarry who assumes Poppa’s laziness is a racial trait when he says, “If they were all like you, Pop, no wonder the Roman Empire packed up.”
These stereotypes serve to highlight the lack of understanding which is the foundation of racism. Clarry represents this lack of understanding. He is repeatedly accused by Maria, his wife, of not understanding, best put when she says “Clarry, to you, people are just…well people.”
This lack of understanding has effects. This is seen in the play’s purpose of showing the human and emotional effects of racism.
The play ends traumatically and all the characters learn a lesson about accepting and understanding people no matter where they come from. As Clarry quoted “You’re the same as us. Bad makes the mistakes, who pays? It’s the good, same as us. You hear? JUST THE SAME AS US!” The play most significantly has a profound effect on Clarry who has the ‘shift of heart’ reflecting the message of the play for a more tolerant society. And ultimately, it can be argued that this is what