Down At The Dump By Patrick White

‘Down at the Dump’ Patrick White, most noted for his longer works of fiction,
exemplifies his craft of storytelling in his short story ‘Down at the Dump’.


White has dramatized an event in life, such as a funeral, and given us a very
believable insight into our own culture. Some readers will take offence to such
a raw and truthful portrait, while others will find humor and hope in the same
story. White is a writer who crafts a story with such intensity, that at times
it slaps you in the face with the truthful, dirty, honest depiction of his
characters. All of whom we can see something, if not the smallest little detail
of our selves in them. ‘Down at the Dump’ counterpoints two families, and their
journeys on an afternoon. One of the families is off to the funeral of Mrs.


Hogben’s sister Daise. The other family the Whalley’s, off to the Sarsaparilla
dump, for busness and pleasure ‘I thought the beer was an excuse for comin’.’ (Isba
pg.8) ‘Down at the Dump’ is also a modern day Australian Romeo ; Juliet, the
forbidden love between Lummy Whalley and Meg Hogben. Both it seems are destined
for more then what is expected of them. The story is also a comment on the staid
middle-class lifestyle, the petty bourgeois existence of the suburbs. The story
is also a comment on the sexually non-conformist such as daise’s character
represents, more about this later. The story is also a comment on standards,
principals, morality, values and judgmental and discriminatory behavior. White
pays attention to the dirty, honest characteristics of human beings, “Her
eyes were that blazing blue, her skin that of a brown peach. But whenever she
smiled, something would happen, her mouth opening on watery sockets and the jags
of brown, rotting stumps.” (pg.1) This serves to give the readers a deeper
understanding of the characters right down to the bone. This typical descriptive
passage is common in white’s writing. It cuts to the core of the character,
shedding light on a side rarely taken by an author. A gritty and honest sense of
reality is achieved. “Down at the Dump” is a story revolving around
binary oppositions, a set of contrasts. The two main families, ‘The Hogben’s and
Whalley’s’ are the two main constructs of White’s direct opposition. This
opposition is nowhere more visible then in white’s use of language when giving
his characters a voice. Whites characters speak from the heart. Their own use of
language reflects directly their class and education. For example – the
Whalley’s speak from the heart, with a distinctly working-class accent.

“Ere!…waddaya make me out ter be? A lump of wood.” (Isba pg.1) We
get a sense very early in the story, by the way the Whalley’s speak, a direct
reflection of their socio-economic background. White’s use of language when
describing the Whalley’s is derogatory and intentionly off putting. This is
contrasted in direct opposition to the Hogben’s. Who are described through their
slightly more capable use of the English language. This helps enforce them as
being worth more in a snobby middle-class way. This direct opposition is again
contrasted to another level. For although White uses harsh, dirty, honest
language when describing the Whalley’s, we cannot help but feel empathy with
them for their honesty. The Whalley’s seem truthfully real and direct people,
yet crass and crude on the outside. This is the opposite for the Hogben’s. The
Hogben’s use of speech is much more educated. Although they are described with
nice, fluffy, sensitive language, I am filled with contempt for them. Meg being
the exception she is one of white’s poetic seers; someone who is destined for
more. The domestic abodes of the two families are also a symbolic representative
of their different socio-economic position and different way of life. Our story
takes its journey to the funeral and the dump respectively where towards the end
of the funeral serves daise rises from the grave to relinquish her thoughts and
feelings. It is about here in the story that the passage I will be discussing
indepth occurs. It is through Daise Morrow that Patrick white chooses to make
social commentry through his authorial voice. The ideological concerns of the
story are quite clear in this passage. The passage I will be referring to starts
midway down page 16 ‘Even if their rage grief, contempt, boredom, apathy, and
sense of injustice had not occupied the mourners…to…as she got in side the
car, and waited for whatever next.’ (Pg.16-17) The passage I will now be
examining starts with a comment by white’s authorial voice. The omniposent
narrator ‘Even if their rage grief, contempt, boredom, apathy, and sense of
injustice had not occupied the mourners…’ this is a direct comment that the
religious proceedings, was not in the forefront of the guests. It seems that
this sermon from the dead is falling on def ears all to caught up in their own
hypocrisies and superficialities. White is commenting here that the townspeople,
disconcerted by the death of the ” loose woman in flora cotton.” are
more concerned with their own position in society, and how people view
themselves and others view them. White arranges the framework of the story
around a shifting Point Of View. The story moves from the Whalley’s perspective,
to the Hogben’s. From there it moves on to a family of no real importance,
Horrie and Georgina Last, shifting back and forth until the resurrection of
Daise Morrow. White cleverly uses this technique of each family commenting on
the other, to give the reader valuable insights and help the reader empathize.


However we must not for get that in doing so White is in some way controlling
how the reader interprets each character, everyone brings their own experiences
to every story they read. One of the more significant ideological concerns White
chooses to comment on is that of sexuality, intimacy and love, as being a social
construct. We observe this through glimpses of this certain behavior in each
family. The Hogben’s are shallow, anal people. This is no more evident then when
Les reminisces about pushing up against Daise in his hallway, denying there was
any sexual intention what so ever. We as reader can make up our own minds about
that. Daise’ rise from the grave is significant to white’s concerns about
intimacy, about people following their hearts. Daise, White’s heroin or mystic
seer, has a will to create her own freedom, above the social constraints of her
sisters middle-class conformities. This is nowhere more evident then in her
haunting comment from the grave towards the end of the section I’ve been
discussing. “Truly, we needn’t experience tortures, unless we build
chambers in our minds to house instruments of hatred in. Don’t you know, my
darling creatures, that death isn’t death, unless it’s the death of a love? Love
should be the greatest explosion it is reasonable to expect. Which sends us
whirling, spinning, creating millions of other worlds. Never destroying.”
(Pg.17) The story finishes with a glimmer of hope. Maybe a budding relationship
between Lummy and Meg, each I feel is destined for something more out of their
lives. A life where honesty, like that of a first kiss, takes precedence over
learned social behaviors. the end.