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In the play Joyful and Triumphant Robert Lord uses the characters to reveal the changing social patterns in New Zealand from the late 1940's to the 1980's. The character of Raewyn Bishop particularly shows this as she starts off the play as a rebellious child and grows into an independent young woman that represents New Zealand and its increasing independency. This could be due to the changes happening in New Zealand at the time such as the introduction of Rock'n'Roll music and more liberated public opinions. Rose Bishop is another character who show these changes as she struggles to overcome her conservative lifestyle in a more open and liberal New Zealand society.
Raewyn Bishop is the eldest child of Ted and Brenda Bishop and is born around 1944 which means she is growing up in a country that is undergoing many post-war developments. She is a headstrong and opinionated character and this is reflected in her actions. In the 1950's when Rock'n'Roll music is introduced into New Zealand Raewyn is reflected in the rebellious youth culture it promotes. "She knows I'm not going to let her go platinum blonde. Not at thirteen. She won't look anything like Marilyn Monroe." She continues to push the boundaries set by her parents who take advice from her grandparents who represent the more conservative and mainstream views of the public at this time as New Zealand is still somewhat attached to Britain and its societal constraints. This is demonstrated when Raewyn begins dating and at seventeen years of age this is deemed too young. "Boyfriend? What boyfriend? She's just a baby." This is made worse when they discover that Raewyn is pregnant and the father is Maori. Although Raewyn's parents claim that "it's not that the boy's a Maori" they clearly are not happy with it as "these mixed marriages never work." This shows that although New Zealanders were not openly racist they had subtle reservations when it came to dealing with people from other cultures.
Raewyn also shows other changes in New Zealand's social pattern. New Zealand was initially quite a conservative country that took its origins form Britain. Around the 1970's divorce became a more popular option for New Zealand couples as it used to be almost socially unacceptable for a couple to divorce without a legitimate reason.
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It is not until the 1980's that Raewyn reveals that she is a lesbian. Again, Raewyn is a representation of a more liberal society where living as a homosexual is both acceptable and supported. It was not until 1986 with the Homosexual Law Reform Act was passed that this was so. The Bishop family shows a varying degree of support for Raewyn at this decision, however. "Don't know how I'd have explained all that black leather to Rose." The Bishop family reaction is a reflection of the majority of the public. Also in the 1980's the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985 was passed. This allowed people like Raewyn, who were convinced to give up their children around the 1960's, to resume contact with their estranged children. "How do you explain why you gave away a child I finally just said who I was and that I hoped he was happy and that if he wanted to see me I'd love to see him. They arrived on my doorstep three days later. Hone "
Rose Bishop also shows changes in New Zealand's social patterns. This is shown as Rose remains a relatively conservative and withdrawn character in a nation that is in the midst of a whirlwind development toward a more liberal way of life. Rose struggles to come to terms with these changes and is left behind as those around her go forward. This all starts when Rose's fiancée dies during World War II and she never finds someone else. In the 1950's a woman who was not married by the age of thirty would have been considered "on the shelf" and therefore never likely to find a husband and marry. This is true in Rose's case, she never finds someone else, "dying a virgin isn't the worst thing that could happen to me", and lives at home with her parents until she is in her late forties and only travels the country once her writing career takes off. "I've published six books." Even then her brother, Ted, tries to convince her to stay home to look after their aging parents; "they need someone to keep an eye on them". This is also a sign of the times; the daughter is expected to look after the parents while the son is out working and starting up a business, "I can't run a business from the middle of nowhere."
Rose searches for something more from life, but never seems to find what she is looking for in modern society. "I don't want to go on living in the same bedroom I've lived in ever since I was born. I want to pull back the curtains and see something new." Rose strongly criticises Esme Hapgood, as she represents woman of Rose's age and the developments they are going through in the 1950's such as perming their hair and securing their social status by marrying and having babies. Rose is typical of woman from the 1950's and she presents a stark contrast to modern New Zealand.
In the play Joyful and Triumphant the characters of Raewyn and Rose Bishop are used particularly well to how New Zealand's changing social patterns. New Zealand is undergoing many post-war changes and Raewyn and Rose show this through the way they live their lives from the late 1940's to the 1980's. Raewyn is representative of the modern changes and Rose shows the conservative side of New Zealand's British heritage.