Despite its seemingly heavy focus on the environment, Hannie Rayson spends a fair bit of her climate fiction play, Extinction, to examine the intricacies of human relationships. Since one of the main conflicts within the play is how to appropriately conserve the environment, Rayson explores the interaction between our four main characters, subsidiary characters and their close personal relationships with one another to reveal the difficulties of their ambition while at the same time, delivers her thoughtful message about interpersonal connection. As you will soon (hopefully) find out, each character’s intimate moments either denote a certain issue or question what the author wishes to raise. Instead of placing herself on a definite side of the discussion, she leaves these complex and ongoing issues to the audience, leaving them wonder which approach is ultimately in the best interest of humanity.
This blog will dive into how Rayson attempts to use the family and romatic relationships in her play to deliver her messages (though there is definitely more to explore) along with a sample body paragraph at the end.
It is fascinating considering the amount of links that Rayson draws from her exploration of relationships to the overarching theme of the environment. Take a look at the evidence below and consider how they would be analyzed:
- Most of the marital relationships in the play are unsuccessful, with Dixon-Brown in the midst of a divorce with her husband Nigel, and Stephanie, Harry’s wife, having cheated on him with his “friend Damien Gore”.
- Dixon-Brown need to remind herself to “have sex with [her husband” by writing “X-E-S on [her] side of the bed”.
- Harry risking his career by representing the tiger quoll project as a “public relations exercise. Which [his board of directors] bought.”
Clearly, having more than one broken marital relationship in the play, and having the characters mentioning their attempts to move on from those relationships several time as well should give you an indication of what Rayson is trying to emphasize. Though Nigel and Stephanie are only referred to in the play instead of appearing on stage, their presence is significant in our characters’ lives, affecting their emotions and thoughts. The fact that both their marital relationships are broken down (and their consequent loneliness) mirrors the deterioration of the environment, reflecting Rayson’s attempt to make a connection between these two issues. Rayson’s placement of Dixon-Brown’s lack of sexual desire with her husband (as weird as it is for us readers) in contrast with her later sexual involvement with Harry (despite the clear conflict of interest) reminds the audience of its relevance in animal species, which again creates an intertwining relationship between the two, putting both humans and animals on an equal footing. And finally, we have Harry who heroically organized a $2.8 million dollar project to rescue the tiger quolls from extinction with his career on the line. This might sound like a reach, but his actions to protect this vulnerable creature in a fatherly manner can be attributed to his wish to do the same for his daughter.
What about the romantic relationships (or circle of relationships, one might say) that are present in Extinction? As a matter of fact, they are boxes full of hidden treasures as well! Attempt to analyse these evidence on your own to figure out what Rayson is trying to imply before reading the suggestions:
- Piper’s beauty being described and referred to several times, for example Andy calling Piper “so sexy” when she’s furious
- Harry successfully seducing both Piper and Dixon-Brown into having sex with him
- Andy’s opening up to Piper despite fearing that Piper would suffer from his “blindness and gibberish dementia” and Piper determining to not let Andy “facing this without [her]”
What do you think? A beautiful, emotional female lead and a bastardly seductive male lead (or second lead?), does that not sound like gender stereotypes straight away?
The fact that Piper’s appearance is what initially attracts Harry and her dramatic responses to the traumatic events around her seems to point at a stereotypical representation of femininity. We all know that old-aged assumption that men acts on logic and women acts on emotions right? Well that is definitely the case here, considering how often Rayson suggests the being emotional is a quality associated with female stereotypes through Piper. The ability of Harry to get everything he wants with his wealth, power, and sexual endenvours also reinforces the possible accuracy of these traditional gender norms as well (according to Rayson anyway). However, with Andy and Piper’s reunion (I know you’ve all been waiting for it the moment they broke up) symbolizes hope for the environment, that there is more to life, in spite of the inevitability of death.
Sample body paragraph:
Based on what we have discussed above, I have included this sample body paragraph here which details how Hannie Rayson employs romantic relationship to convey her outstandingly complex messages about the environment and gender stereotypes. Keep in mind, I wrote this last year so it might not be perfect, but will give you an idea of what you want to analyze for the theme of relationships!
From the outset, the prominent existence of romantic relationships in “Extinction” has been utilized by Rayson to convey the ulterior motivations of the characters. Harry’s immediate attraction to Piper’s beauty when he first encounters her at the animal shelter, and Andy’s compliment on Piper being “so sexy” when she’s furious seems to point at a stereotypical representation of femininity. Piper’s admittance that “sulking is a part of my repertoire” while in a relationship with Andy over the issue of the tiger quoll denotes the playwright’s suggestion that being emotional is a quality associated with female stereotypes. As Harry and Dixon-Brown’s romantic relationship takes a wrong turn, Dixon-Brown seems to reinforce the melodramatic stereotype of a spurned woman by lashing out at him, questions him if the reason was “you wanted someone younger”. Her vengeful act by attempting to place the blame of her “covert sexual relationship” with Harry on Piper and insisting Piper to “step aside from the project” indicates the author’s notion of traditional patriarchal representation between men and women. Moreover, the construction of Harry’s ability in seducing both the women of the play is the testament of his image of stereotypic masculinity, reducing Harry to the caricature of a “rich business flirtatious man” who can get everything he wants. Her alignment of Harry’s ‘masculine’ characteristics such as his wealth and power with his experiences of sexual endeavours raises the question if it is Rayson’s belief that these stereotypes are accurate in real life. However, not only did Rayson employs romantic relationships as a tool to introduce her rendition of society-based stereotypes, they were also portrayal of myriad aspects in the characters’ journey of conserving the environment. Despite having initially pushed Piper away due to his fear of Piper suffering from his “blindness and gibberish dementia”, Andy’s opening up to Piper and her determination to not letting him “facing this without me” symbolizes hope for the environment. The author hints at the power of love and shared values as Piper insists on accompany Andy on “this road” that “leads to sadness”, implying that these characteristics are formidable in giving them the strength to face difficulties ahead both for Andy’s illness and the environment. The ‘extinct’ of a number of marital relationships in the play such as that of Harry’s and Dixon-Brown’s also serves to mirror the deterioration of the biodiversity itself. As a result of Rayson’s masterful incorporation of subtle nuances, romantic relationships in “Extinction” act as revelation for the audience to understand more about the state of the environment and the conventional imagery of genders.
Thank you for reading this blog, I hoped it has helped you make more sense of the myriad issues that go on in Extinction, and see further into the fascinating (though slightly awkward at times) world of relationships in this text!