Belonging is a natural human need. It is also something that we can strive for or feel crippled by. How do the composers show this through their characters, the way they structure texts and the language features they use?
In THE CHINA COIN Allan Baillie uses the characters of Leah and Ke to highlight the two extremes of belonging: that it is a state that we crave and seek, it is also a feeling that has the capacity to hinder our growth to maturity and fulfillment. Here, Baillie structures his work in such a way that Leah, as an outsider, enters China and undergoes a process of change as she seeks a clearer sense of cultural connection. Yet Ke, a student involved in protests against the government, is crippled by his own culture, one where the monolithic Communist Party comes to frustrate his need for change.
As the narrative focus of THE CHINA COIN, it is Leah who we follow in her quest for meaning in the land of her ancestors. Yet Baillie ensures that her need to fulfill her father’s dying wish, to find the other half of the coin, is complicated and comes with many obstacles. The first obstacle is Joan, her mother, who is ever fearful of social unrest following her experiences in Malaysia as a young girl. However, it is only when Baillie has Joan hospitalized, following the accident with Heng, that this so-called obstacle is removed. Leah is free to explore the subtleties of Ke’s family and his connection to Turtle Land Village, all so very different to the grim urban centres of Shanghai and especially Chongquing, where Leah fails to establish a connection at all…
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