Yonglu boy analyzes the young lives of three adolescent boys and the challenges they face during the transition from boyhood to adulthood. The factors that affect the nature of this transition such as friendship, society, the environment and values instilled come out clearly in this context. There are three boys all from Yolngu community who find themselves in the strange community of white people with white liberal laws. The three boys may share the same values and societal views but their personalities and goals in life are completely different. As such their new lives all take different turns and there is a complete change in their view of the world as well as each other.
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The film’s major themes are friendship, personal growth and the challenges adolescents face in their transition from teenage hood to adulthood. (Pitt 2010) The three characters Lorrpu, Milika and Botj’s experience has been used to bring out this theme. The characters are childhood friends who have been raised in the Yolngu community where a lot of survival skill and societal value is instilled at a young age. They recognize Botj as the leader since he is skilled, wise and responsible.
Their adaptation to the white man’s land however brings out a different response for each of them. Lorrpu strongly believes in the traditional ways of the people and does not embrace the white man’s ways. However, Bortj on the other hand finds himself in a confused state. He has abandoned their traditional ways and embraced a dangerous lifestyle in the new land and as a result he finds himself in trouble with the law. Milika on the other hand does not really lose his traditional sense though he is not overly interested in traditional Yolngu life. He prefers to chase his dream of becoming a football star. He however does not practice destructive behavior and maintains his level of responsibility. He has lost respect for Botj for losing his values and acting very irresponsibly. He however maintains a strong friendship bond with Lorrpu.
Unlike Milika and Botj, Lorrpu places his traditional ways and community in high esteem. He looks forward to the ceremony where he will officially be inducted into adulthood and into manhood. This young man possesses commendable character traits. He has found the balance between chasing success without really loosing himself in the process. He has a fierce loyalty towards his childhood friends in spite of how they turn out eventually. He is concerned about his friend Botj’s abandonment of the traditional beliefs and his increasingly destructive behavior. He however still believes in their friendship and refuses to let Botj self destruct. Eventually when the community and even family of Botj turn their backs on him he remains loyal to him.
His dreams portray the importance of his beliefs in their traditional customs and their friendship. His dream about him and his friends as children wading through the waters at low tide as great hunters and the sun warming their backs indicates the boys following their traditional customs and sticking together in life as friends. It implies that time and circumstance cannot separate them and for this friendship bond Lorrpu will give his very life. (Edgar, 2006)
The highlight of the story is the boy’s attempt to save Botj. Their community requires that one qualifies in the eyes of the community and the elders before they are charged with the responsibility of being adults and finding a place in their tribe. Botj has obviously lost all the privileges with his community so much that he is forbidden from seeing his mother who is afraid of his destructive behavior. He does not qualify to be a part of the ceremony while his friends do.
Lorrpu being very loyal convinces them to trek through the wilderness to Darwin to help Botj prove to the tribal elders that he is ready for the ceremony. During this trek they have to draw on their skills to survive but mostly they have to draw on their bond of friendship. During the trek, as they revisit their childhood dreams Botj rediscovers himself and Lorrpu who knew his potential all along appreciates him by recognizing him as their leader once more.
Key themes in this story include rites of passage and personal growth. The three boys represent the different ways in which adolescents attain personal growth. Lorrpu represents a calmness and composure that allows him to maintain his values in the midst of a foreign community. It also brings out the significance of rites of passage in different cultures. As the Yolngu community makes it a formal ceremony where only the qualified can take part the western culture has a more indifferent approach towards the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Rites of passage also bring out one’s character and in this case Lorrpu’s loyalty and responsibility is inherent. Adolescents usually are associated with mistakes and error in their attempt to find themselves. However, Lorrpu’s character shows that with deeply instilled values and integrity the transition to adulthood from adolescence can be pretty smooth. Yolngu boy has highlighted the many factors involved in the search for identity. There are values that can only be gained through experience. (Tudball, 2001)
Personal identity differs between individuals even when they share cultural values and beliefs. This difference in personality paves different paths for different individuals hence each person experiences, perceives and reacts to different situations differently. As a result there cannot be a common process of discovering one’s identity. The search for identity can be exciting as well as difficult.
It becomes more difficult when one has to integrate two different cultures forcing them to lose some values while gaining others. It also indicates how important friendship is in the process of finding one’s identity. Botj owes his finding himself to Lorrpu who believed in him when no one else did and Milika who eventually accepts him in spite of prior misconceptions. (Harris, 2008)
Yolngu boy also explores the theme of rules, rights and responsibilities. These three are the difference between adolescents and adults. An individual who has mastered these three is considered an adult. When the boys decide to save Botj at the expense of their dreams they learn that friendship has its own set of responsibilities. Eventually Milika and Lorrpu take part in the ceremony but Botj has to take responsibility for his past mistakes and even though he has changed he has to face the consequences of his actions. The implication here is that friends can help you out of a bad situation but you have to bear all the responsibilities for your actions.
Finally Yolngu boy explores the theme of culture and the importance of belonging to one. The boys find themselves in two different cultures, and the confusion is obvious. Culture places different values and beliefs in its members. The three boys clearly have to find a balance between the two cultures since integrating two cultures requires that one drop some values while embracing others. One has to decide what values hold weight and will affect their personal identity. (Perkins, 2010)
In conclusion, Yolngu boy has brought out the difference between cultures in addition to all the above themes. It brings out the different rites of passage and values in the two cultures and shows the importance of retaining one’s cultural values.
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