Tracks & Charlie’s Country | Freedom

Freedom is one of the most important themes featured in Tracks and Charlie’s Country, and both protagonists’ journeys revolve around their pursuit of freedom. Despite this, there concept of ‘freedom’ to Robyn and Charlie are fundamentally different, and it is important to make the distinction, and how this influences the success of their push towards ‘freedom.’

1. The definition of freedom

When comparing these two concepts, I like to use the difference in background between Robyn and Charlie to explain the difference in their ideologies.

TracksCharlie’s Country
Robyn aligns freedom with personal growth, with taking risks or being alone. Robyn feels that her growth is restricted by the metaphorical chains of the status quo, and thus she actively seeks out her freedom via the trip. 

In the book, Davidson expands on this idea of ‘freedom’, defining it as ‘to be alone, to test, to push, to unclog my brain of all its extraneous debris, not to be protected, to be stripped of all the social crutches, not to be hampered by any outside interference whatsoever, well meant or not.

Robyn values her freedom highly, most evidently shown as she accepts the sponsorship from National Geographic: ‘I had sold a great swatch of my freedom and most of the trip’s integrity for four thousand dollars.’

However, her definition of personal liberty strays far from its original meaning (not being imprisoned/enslaved). This tells us that Robyn comes from a much more advantaged background than Charlie, who considers freedom to be as simple as not being incarcerated.
On the other hand, freedom to Charlie, while never explicitly mentioned, feels much more concrete. To him, liberty and independence is to not be imprisoned by the government, and to regain the self-sufficiency that he had possessed before the intervention. 

It is evident to the audience that Charlie cannot live in the community controlled by non-Indigenous people: He cannot eat, doesn’t have a home, isn’t allowed to hunt. Therefore, to Charlie, the idea of freedom stems from a need to survive.

While Robyn gives the audience a detailed, deeply personal understanding of independence, Charlie’s needs are much more direct and clearer. This is because while ‘Tracks’ is a memoir of Robyn’s, ‘Charlie’s Country’ is a drama, and the character of Charlie symbolises the Aboriginal community that feels oppressed by the government and wishes to be free of their restr

2. Actions taken to pursue freedom

A key and obvious distinction between the actions of these characters is that while Robyn is strongly driven by her desires, Charlie is quite unwilling to react unless necessary. Even in prison, he is shown to be passive and obedient. 

Robyn herself explains why this is the case: her generation enjoys a ‘post-war prosperity’ that allows for self-discovery. This activeness v. passiveness is useful in explaining why Robyn completed her trip, while Charlie accomplished little in his story.

TracksCharlie’s Country
The purpose of Robyn’s trip, fundamentally, is for her to seek out ‘freedom’. 

She is willing to make sacrifices to achieve this goal, such as enduring Kurt’s brutal treatment, or working at the bar for accommodation (there are more examples of this too!). Robyn also faces countless physical and mental challenges in the desert. Ultimately, she perseveres, showing the desire she has for finding independence and liberty.

A key detail of Robyn’s journey is that she actively seeks out this ‘freedom’. From the very outset of the story, Robyn arrived in Alice with only ‘a dog, six dollars and a small suitcase full of inappropriate clothes.’ Although Robyn is ill-equipped to take on the journey, she is still willing to take initiative, to escape the expectations society has of her
Charlie mainly takes action when his freedom is being actively threatened.

– When he is not allowed to hunt by the police, Charlie steals the police car and moves to the bush
– When he is forcibly transported to the hospital, he discharges himself
– When Charlie is to be arrested, he resists the police by smashing the window of the car
– Finally, when Charlie realises that his culture is in danger of disappearing, he teaches the children traditional dancing

Charlie is willing to take strong initiative to protect his liberty, both mentally and physically, such as attacking Luke to resist arrest. However, most of his actions are largely driven by his need to survive, and he is not as decisive as Robyn.

3. Their success and failure

While Robyn completed journey and explore herself and grow through the risks she takes, Charlie was less successful. There are many reasons behind this result, most of which can found from the above columns: the difference in their background, their idea of freedom, and the actions they take to achieve it.

It’s very important to compare these things in constructing a high-level essay!

TracksCharlie’s Country
Despite Robyn’s best efforts, she is never able to achieve total independence. From the start, her lack of understanding of the desert meant that she had to rely on Kurt and Sallay’s help. 

Robyn also preaches her desire to be free from the interference of other people. However, during her journey, the protagonist often struggles with her loneliness, relying on the emotional support of Rick, or her friends Jenny and Toly, or her animals.

The central event for this ‘loss of freedom’ is her accepting National Geographic’s sponsorship. By doing this, Robyn’s journey has gone from a personal quest to a public story. She expresses disappointment at this, claiming that she had sold ‘a great swatch of freedom’.

Ultimately, Robyn does complete her journey, and she does find her freedom in the desert during the trek. It is at this point that Robyn is the happiest, and it is here that Robyn begins to observe changes within herself. Despite her journey not turning out the way she anticipated, Robyn’s quest was still partially successful.
Charlie is also unable to achieve his freedom; in fact, as the story progresses, he finds himself further entrapped in the control of non-Aboriginal people.

Charlie’s attempts to go hunting are swiftly denied by Luke, who confiscates his weapons. Charlie then reacts by going to bush, a moment of happiness that is short-lived, as he quickly falls ill. When Charlie is confronted by the police, he attacks them, but this doesn’t change much, as he is still imprisoned.

‘Charlie’s Country’ is a story of Charlie’s missteps and troubles, and ultimately, he ends up back at his community, the same place he started. His attempts to seek freedom were largely unsuccessful, but he was able to return to his home with a changed mindset on his life. 

Charlie’s short-lived moment of freedom is in the bush. Here, he finally belongs, and his survival skills are relevant. 

I really hope this blog has given you a better idea of how to tackle this task. Why don’t you try writing a response to the following essay prompt? Practice makes perfect after all!

Compare how Tracks and Charlie’s Country represent the notion of freedom.

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