Introduction:Discovery is the experience of reconnecting or learning something new which has the power to transform an individual emotionally and intellectually as they rediscover themselves and their world. Michael Gow’s play, “Away”, and the performance poem, “Shoulders”, composed by Shane Koyczan, epitomises the emotional and intellectual responses provoked by the experience of discovering. Michael Gow’s self-theatrical play “Away” set in 1967, presents understandings of discovery and the way in which self-transformations impact individual’s views on the world. Coral must learn to accept the death of her son in order to reconnect with herself and others.”Shoulders”, explores an individual discovery about the history, memories and the future of our planet which transforms into a social advocate.
Both texts explore individual values that result in a challenging discovery and evocative reflection.Body Paragraph 1: (Away)Discoveries are the experiences of reconnecting or learning something new which has the power to transform an individual emotionally and intellectually. Individuals in crisis departing from their routine life are an essential process of discovery. The unexpected death of Coral’s son emotionally disables her and acts as a barrier between her engagement with life and to move on from the stages of grief.
This affects her relationship with Roy and her interaction with others as she becomes isolated from the world. The stage directions convey disconnection. “Coral doesn’t respond”. Her unresponsiveness extends her dream-like state. Her soliloquy illustrates her thoughts are fixated on death. Her fragile emotional state is revealed through “What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?”. The soliloquy emphasises she feels alone, isolated and unable to reveal her thoughts and pain to anyone.
“Alas”. Going away is a crucial part of the process which facilitates self-discovery. The characters must go “Away” to confront challenges or be presented with flaws. Realisations are made through setting change and evoked by the power of water to act as cleanser.
Tom’s character provides a confronting catalyst within the characters, he is the facilitator for change. First being introduced to the character within act one, represents the foreboding future he is destined to face to encompass a far-reaching impacting discovery. This contrasts Coral’s approach to loss. She runs away and Tom is stoic and accepts it.
The intertextual reference of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, through Tom’s dialogue, “give me your hands, if we be friends, and Robins shall restore amends”, foreshadows an idea of forgiveness. Body Paragraph 2: (Shoulders)The reflection stemming from an unplanned discovery offers renewed interpretation ofsocial values and individual responsibility. Shane Koyczan’s performance poem,’Shoulders’, explores an individual discovery about society’s indifference towards ourplanet’s future.
Both texts possess historical elements. In “Shoulders”, the mythological element instigates Koyczan’s discovery and in “Away”, the history of the great depression and the Vietnam War significantly affected the protagonists in a negative way. Tom shares similarities between Shane Koyczan as both have a great forbearing effect on the world and the society within it.
Opening the poem with a deliberate measured pace which intensifies reflects the crescendo of emotions to capture his epiphany, “We are Atlas now”. Koyczan’s anagnorisis that humanity has an integral role within the universe similar to Atlas is metaphorically realised in the motif of stars, “We are constellations drawn upon the earth, we are connected to one another, we are bound”. Anagnorisis is evident in “Away”, when Gwen how nasty she was to her family and Coral discovers how to deal with the loss of her son. The shift in his individual values occurs after meaningful reflection revealing that our future is dependent on “we”.
“Because those two letters take the responsibility away from one and rests in squarely on the shoulders of everybody, resulting in a transformed perception of our world”.Body Paragraph 3: (Away)Discoveries are the experiences that lead to reconnecting or learning something new which can transform individuals emotional state. Tragedy and reflection are the catalyst for a needed discovery. For Gwen, new understandings of the world are achieved through considering values that have already been concealed. She realises the importance and value of family and to recognise what you already have. Employing the Shakespearean device of the Tempest enables Gwen to be receptive to change.
The tempest acts as a representation of change, where the destruction of Gwen’s possessions forces an amend to her life. After the tempest’s destruction, Gwen is responsive to change, previous to this, she was fixated on being part of the upper middle class and aspired for increased social status. Coral’s discovery is prompted by necessity and is a gradual process facilitating self-analysis which allows change. Coral becomes empowered by Tom an the healing capacity of nature. The pastoral setting allows Coral’s introspection and emergence from her sense of isolation with water symbolically cleansing Coral’s personal demons.
Tom’s role as a healer is crucial to Gwen and Coral’s discovery. He is the catalyst for change and discovers a positive outcome out of his tragic illness. Tom’s illness makes Gwen realise the value she placed on status was superficial and provides the impetus for her restoration of familial relationships.
While Tom’s stoic approach to death is essential to Coral’s discovery. Tom’s illness enables Coral to foster a health maternal bond with Tom. Body Paragraph 4: (Shoulders)An individual can transform into a social advocate due to an intensely meaningfuldiscovery. Reflection becomes the catalyst for Koyczan’s anagnorisis about our duty toour planet and the poem’s narrative structure reveals individual realisations through theshifting person from singular, “I begin to see us in the context of something bigger”‘ tocollective, ‘We can dismiss apathy; we can reject uncertainty”‘ to emphasise humancommonality. This is similar to Tom as both facilitates others discoveries and act as a healer, attempting to make “amends”. Koyczan’s transformation culminates in his emphatic tone “This is home” which evolves to become the voice of passionate belief, “All our stories start and end here” contrasting the passive style of the opening. By encouraging a less egocentricview of the world, Koyczan highlights how the reassessment of an individual’s valuesoccurs due to a discovery, “our strength will come from finding a way to share inshouldering the responsibility”. This is further extended through the imperative metaphor”We must take the martial arts approach to loving our planet.
..There will be no otherthing worth saving as this!” and monosyllabic sentences, “We can. We are”, bluntlydemonstrate the simplicity of the solution to our social crisis. Ending with a sense ofempowerment, “We act as one, we are many” affirms the reinterpretation ofhumanity which has occurred as a result of Koyczan’s discovery reminding us to”remember” our role within a global context through vehement social advocacy.Conclusion:In conclusion, discoveries are the experiences of reconnecting and learning something new to transform individuals emotionally and intellectually as the rediscover themselves and their surrounding world.
Michael Gow’s play, “Away”, and the performance poem, “Shoulders”, composed by Shane Koyczan, epitomises the emotional and intellectual responses provoked by the experience of discovering. Both texts explore individual values that result in a challenging discovery and evocative reflection.