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Anousha and Sabrena are seated on stage as a short clip is played on
the projector screen, showing the introduction of a news broadcast.
Sabrena: Good afternoon, I am Sabrena Lee.
Anousha: And I am Anousha Gilroy.
Together: And you are tuned into today’s new broadcast.
Anousha: Our main stories tonight:
‘Finding Grace’ and ‘Whose Life is it Anyway’ are both texts which
mobilise the discourse of Disablement, however, they each construct
two completely different views. Just how do they do it? We get down
and dirty discussing the effects in which the attitudes, values and
beliefs inherent and the discourses mobilised in the texts position
the readers and viewers to side with a particular opinion over
Sabrena: In addition, a live debate will be taking place about
the controversial issue of euthanasia, or suicide, whichever way you
look at it, and who has the right to make the decision concerning
whether a person lives or dies. However, firstly, we will cross over
to Sam French, who is currently at the National Library of Brisbane.
(The tables are moved apart to signify a scene change)
Anousha: This is an outrage! I am reporting live from the
National Library of Brisbane where a serious felony has been
committed. All copies of the novel, ‘Finding Grace’ have been stolen,
(Holds up novel) except for this one. But why, you ask, would anyone
want to steal this book? Let me tell you.
The novel “Finding Grace”, by Alyssa Brugman is the story of a brain
damaged woman named Grace and her path to recovery. The novel is
viewed through the perspective of Grace’s new carer, a teenage girl
named Rachel. This representation of Rachel contributes to the
foregrounding of certain attitudes, values and beliefs which construct
the dominant discourse of Disablement which is evident throughout the
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relationships and personal growth. The discourse of Disability is
mobilized throughout the text by the character Grace, who is diagnosed
with severe brain damage. The novel values disabled people with high
respect and as the title of the novel suggests, the story is about
discovering who Grace is and about the normal life that she had led
before. This facet creates the belief that disabled people should be
viewed upon as normal people, with feelings and personalities similar
The discourse of relationships is significant in linking the whole
novel together. It is mobilized through many different people and
there are a number of different types or relationships. The key
relationship in the novel is that of Grace and Rachel. It begins as a
carer and a seemingly brain dead woman, when Rachel thinks of it as
babysitting. But evolves into a friendship when Rachel begins to
realize Grace is a normal person. She begins to feel a connection with
her and to genuinely care for her. The discourse of personal growth is
mobilized through Grace and Rachel. It is interrelated with the
discourse of relationships as it through these that the progression
occurs. Grace starts off as nearly a vegetable, but as she becomes
comfortable and familiar with her relationship with Rachel, her state
of mind improves and the reader begins to see her react and respond to
different situations. Rachel’s relationship with Grace helps her to
mature and discover who she really is.
It is evident that the viewpoints of Rachel and Mr Preston have been
foregrounded throughout the text. This privileges their view that
disabled people are human beings just like everyone else. The
viewpoints of Anthony Preston have been marginalized, by doing so, he
is unable to defend himself against accusations or provide his point
of view about Grace’s current situation. Due to Grace’s condition,
she is incapable of speaking; however, she is not marginalized
throughout the text because the reader must rely on other character’s
opinions about her by the viewpoints which are privileged throughout
the text. There is no use of binary opposition or intertextuality
throughout this novel as no references to other specific texts have
The construction of the novel positions the reader to establish that
Grace, like other disabled people, was and still is a person with
genuine feelings, emotions and a past similar to others. Someone who
may be resistant to the novel would be an unhappy carer or relative as
they do not share the same viewpoints as Rachel and Mr Preston. A
person who is disgusted by disabled people would also be resistant
towards the text as they may feel uncomfortable reading the novel
since a major issue evident in text is disability. Another reader who
may not agree with the text is a person who is similar to the
character of Anthony Preston, who treats women like trophies, as the
readers may not agree with the novel’s portrayal of his character.
Oh my, this novel really is something. No wonder all the copies have
been stolen. This has been Sam French, reporting live from the
National Library of Brisbane.
(The tables are moved back into the middle as they were at the start)
Sabrena: Thank you for that report, Sam.
Anousha: We will now crossover to the Prince Alexander Hospital
where the reporter, Jenny Allen, is waiting with another of tonight’s
(The tables are moved apart)
Sabrena: Good afternoon, I am currently standing in front of the
Brisbane Lyric Theatre, where a protest has broken out concerning the
recent release of the play, ‘Whose Life is it Anyway’. Ever since the
play has first performance, there has been ongoing opposition for the
support of Euthanasia displayed in the play.
Whose Life is it Anyway?, by Brian Clark, is a play which thoroughly
discusses the issue of euthanasia and one’s personal choice to commit
suicide. In Clark’s construction of the play, he mobilises the
dominant discourse of Disablement. There are two prominent discourses
which help construct our view of Disablement, such as personal
integrity and the legal discourse. These discourses are mobilised in
the text to foreground certain attitudes, values and beliefs.
Throughout the play, the character of Ken Harrison predominantly
mobilises the discourse of personal integrity which is also valorised
throughout the play. Ken displays a strong sense of moral integrity
through his perseverance, determination and stubbornness in his need
to commit suicide. Despite the opposing opinions of those surrounding
him, he values his dignity and believes that dying by his own will “is
a question of dignity”. In Clark’s construction of the play, he also
primarily draws upon the legal discourse. Throughout the play, the
law is foregrounded as being excessive and inconsiderate to the
feelings and conditions of the victims of disablement. The discourse
of law values pro-life and opposes euthanasia. This creates a barrier
between Ken and his choice of committing suicide. It is mobilised by
the characters of Mr Hill, the judge and Dr Emerson, whose attitude is
that there is no personal choice because Ken’s life was determined by
the judge of a trial proceeding. As Ken claims, “the cruelty doesn’t
reside in saving someone or allowing them to die. It resides in the
fact that the choice is removed from the man concerned.”
There are two predominant viewpoints which have been represented
throughout the play. These consist of Ken Harrison and those in
favour of his death and Dr Emerson along with those who oppose his
death. Ken Harrison feels that he can choose whether or not he lives
or dies. Since Ken is paralysed, he can only use his brain and is
therefore so dependent on the help of others and machines, he believes
that he is basically dead. Since he values his independence, his
attitude is that if he can not be independent, there is no point in
living. He also values his dignity and would rather die with his
dignity intact. However, opposing this viewpoint is Dr Emerson and
those who oppose Ken’s death. These characters believe in pro-life
which is the act of maintaining life. Since Dr Emerson values his job
and the life of his patients, his attitude is that “a doctor cannot
accept the choice for death as he’s committed to life”.
It is evident that the viewpoints of Ken Harrison and those in favour
of his death have been foregrounded throughout the text whereas the
viewpoints of Dr Emerson and those who oppose Ken’s death have been
marginalised. This is evident throughout the play as Dr Emerson’s
viewpoints are not taken into heavy consideration by others. There are
less scenes which outline Dr Emerson’s viewpoints compared to those of
Ken Harrison. In addition Dr Emerson’s character is portrayed as
having a cold personality and also being inconsiderate towards the
feelings of his patients. This is achieved through the use of binary
opposition, which works to privilege one viewpoint while creating the
other as inconsiderate, excessive and wrong. This is evident in the
text through the complications present in the plot and the
representations of the characters. The predominant binary opposition
which is constructed is personal freedom versus legal constraint.
These binaries intersect and shape meaning throughout the text,
therefore utilising ideological work to position the audience to value
Ken Harrison’s viewpoints over the others. Even though there were no
references to other specific texts, the concept of intertextuality was
introduced as throughout the play, the issue of Euthanasia must be
understood. The reader must have an awareness of the continuous
debate of Euthanasia around the world and the strong opposition that
the law in many countries hold against it, as well as the large number
of protests and uproar this results from. In addition, to completely
understand the text, the reader must have a thorough insight about the
type of disability Ken has and the way that it affects the person
concerned. The various methods which have been discussed are utilised
to create ideological work by foregrounding the viewpoints of Ken
Harrison and those in favour of his death rather than the viewpoints
of Dr Emerson and those who oppose Ken’s death.
Despite the ideological work used to position the reader into agreeing
with Ken Harrison and the viewpoints which are in favour of his death,
there may be readers who agree or resist the text due to past
experiences and circumstances. A resistant reader may be a person who
believes in pro-life, specifically doctors or those who work in
medical fields as their jobs are to save lives. Those who represent
authority, such as politicians and leaders of countries who oppose
Euthanasia may also resist the text as they may view the play to set
an inappropriate example. Furthermore, a person who has overcome a
disability in the past may be a resistant reader as they may hold the
view that Ken should not give up his life but continue to hope for
Well there it is. This is the play which has caused numerous protests
such as this one going on behind me. Clearly there are many facets of
the play which are to be considered. This is Jenny Allen, reporting
live from the Brisbane Lyric Theatre.
(The tables are moved back together into the middle of the stage)
Anousha: Thank you for that insightful report, Jenny.
Sabrena: Talk about a controversy.
Anousha: Sabrena, what are your opinions on this issue?
Sabrena: Well Anousha, I believe in freedom of speech and allowing
everyone to stand up for what they believe in. Even though I have
never been disabled, whilst I was reading the play, I could understand
why Ken Harrison felt for the need of Euthanasia. If a patient has an
appropriate basis of reasons of why they do not want to live anymore,
then I believe their opinion should be taken into consideration, just
as it was done in the play. It is understandable that doctors value
pro-life, as do many others however I believe that if someone is as
disabled as Ken Harrison where they are no longer able to perform even
basic functions so their own dignity is lost then with their consent,
I believe Euthanasia would be the right thing to do.
Anousha: Oh ok, I see. That is quite reasonable.
Sabrena: The issue of Euthanasia is dominantly foregrounded
throughout the play, ‘Whose Life is it Anyway’ as the main character,
Ken, fights for his right to have a dignified death. Euthanasia means
“good or happy death” and is divided into two types: active and
(OHT of definitions is displayed)
Active Euthanasia is defined as the act of killing a sick person, or
performing actions which make their death occur more quickly.
Anousha: Passive Euthanasia occurs when someone fails to do
something which would keep the sick person alive. In the play,
passive euthanasia is present as Ken is granted the right to be
discharged from the hospital where he will be without medical
attention, therefore, allowing himself to die. Let us see a scene from
the play that demonstrates this.
(Anousha and Sabrena act out scene from play)
Sabrena – Mr Hill
Anousha – Dr Emerson
Mr Hill: Mr Harrison wishes to be discharged from hospital. Will you
please make the necessary arrangements?
Dr Emerson: No.
Mr Hill: May I ask why not?
Dr Emerson: Because Mr Harrison is incapable of living
outside that hospital and it is my duty as a doctor to preserve life.
(Anousha and Sabrena end scene and continue with discussion)
Anousha: Most religions do not oppose passive euthanasia because
believe that it is
not morally wrong to allow people to die when they have no hope of
recovering; however, Christianity believes that suicide should never
be permitted. Instead, it views suicide as an attempt to use a power
that belongs only to God.
(OHT of quote is displayed on projector)
Sabrena: Active Euthanasia is viewed differently. As expressed
in a 1979 official report of the Lutheran church, “It is within God’s
purview alone to decide on the moment when the individual is to share
that life which lies beyond death.” Their attitude is that no one
other than God may assume this power.
Anousha: But wait a minute Sabrena what if the patient concerned
was so severely disabled that they were constantly in pain or
completely dependant on others or machines for their survival.
Sabrena: Hmm Anousha that’s a tough situation, I have never
thought about it that way before. Well I guess every situation depends
on the individual’s circumstance.
(OHT of contact details is displayed on projector)
Anousha: For your opinions on any of today’s topics please feel free
to contact us on or email us at email@example.com
Sabrena: That’s all for today, we hope you’ve enjoyed our
Brugman, A. 2001, Finding Grace, NSW: Allen & Unwin
Clark, B. 1978, Whose Life is it Anyway, London: Samuel French Ltd.
Geisler, N. 1989, Christian Ethics: Options and Issues, USA: Baker
Book House Company
Gott. R and Linden. R. 1993, No easy way out, Victoria: CIS publishers