Tan and Marsden recounted the events as an allegory (in which the indigenous are possums, a native animal, and the British are represented by rabbits, animals carrying connotations of destruction and immorality), utilising several visual and language techniques to communicate the significant aspects of change and how they affect both the Possums and the Rabbits. These techniques used most dominantly highlight the cultural and environmental change that occurred in the settlement. The most obvious and dominant change revealed in Tan and Marsden’s ‘The Rabbits’ ,is the environmental change to the Australian landscape.
Visual and Language techniques are employed to clarify for readers, the destruction the rabbits inflicted to the environment. The visual technique colour is effectively used to depict the change the environment undergoes by changing the colour tones. The illustrations at the start of the book are warm reds and yellows conveying a strong, bold, earthy environment and as the book progresses the colours reflect a ‘sunny glow’ of progress and development and towards the end colours become more and more dark toned conveying a dead, desolate, empty environment.
For example, pages 17, 18, 27, 28 and 29 are the darkest pages, they are bleak and all black or dark toned depicting the suffering and despair of the Possums and emphasising their loss of their environment and the family lost in the battles. It is through these changes of colour that an atmosphere is created and if we look at the first pages atmosphere and the last the difference between them makes the environmental change clearer and easier to comprehend. Another technique successfully used was the language technique; Rhetorical questions.
A series of statements from the possums regarding the invasion of rabbits soon unravels into several rhetorical questions which forms a heartfelt plea from the possums for their environment to return to its natural state. “Where is the rich, dark earth, brown and moist? ” (Page 27), “Where is the smell of rain dripping from the gum trees? ”; It is rhetorical questions like this that unveil the extent of the environmental change. The visual and language techniques applied are imperative for readers to comprehend the Environmental change that Tan and Marsden are aiming to communicate.
Furthermore, cultural/social change is a very significant change evident in the ‘The Rabbits’ as the Aboriginals/possums lifestyle is greatly affected by the invasion of the British/rabbits. The extent of the cultural/social change to the possum’s lifestyle is revealed through several language and visual techniques. The visual technique, use of space, is utilised to emphasise how much the possums were run out of their own land and literally ‘pushed into the background’ when the rabbits invaded.
In the opening pages of the book the possums were the main focus and were free to roam their land but as the story progressed and the rabbits industrialise their land, they become smaller and hazier and restricted with where they could hunt and their usual lifestyle, the rabbits became larger and more numerous, replacing the possums land with buildings. In pages 17 and 18 of the book the rabbits do not appear at all and on pages 13 and 14 the possums have lost all their rights and are chained up as slaves of the rabbits.
It is through the use of space that the reader’s initial response of the rabbits is changed and the readers develop an understanding of the darkness the rabbits bring to the land and how this changes the possum’s way of life. The language technique rhetorical questions also address the cultural/social change undergone. The heart felt plea can also be interpreted as a desperate attempt to go back to the way they know how to live. On the last page the question “Who will save us from Question: “How are significant aspects of change reflected in Tan and Marsden’s picture book ‘The Rabbits’” …the rabbits? is asked. This is a great example of the emotional effect of cultural change on the rabbits. It is through questions like this that readers are positioned in the possum’s shoes and the cultural/social change become clearer. The readers realisation of the cultural/social change of the possums in ‘The Rabbits’ would be vitally affected if visual and language techniques were not employed.
In conclusion, several visual and language techniques are utilised by Tan and Marsden to convey the changes in ‘The Rabbits’. Rhetorical questions are effectively used to allow readers to further understand the position the ossums are in and therefor emphasise the effect of the environmental and cultural change, change of colour successfully portrays the environmental change by creating a difference in the atmosphere/mood of the illustrations which are influenced by the colour tone, and the use of space cleverly emphasises the cultural change of the possums lifestyle by subtly making them less and less apart of their own home. Overall, Tan and Marsden would not have easily or effectively revealed the changes that occurred in the British settlement without visual and language techniques.