Kim Scott’s novel Benang is a polyphonic text

Kim Scott’s novel Benang is a polyphonic text

Kim Scott's novel "Benang" is indeed a polyphonic text, a term that refers to the presence of multiple voices, perspectives, and narrative threads within the work. This literary technique allows the author to explore a wide range of themes and issues by presenting a diverse set of characters and their perspectives.

Polyphony in literature is the art of weaving together multiple voices, each with its own unique perspective and story to tell. Kim Scott masterfully employs this technique in "Benang" to create a rich and multifaceted narrative. 

Kim Scott’s novel Benang is a polyphonic text

The novel is set in Western Australia and tells the story of multiple generations of the Noongar people, an Indigenous Australian group. It explores the historical and cultural complexities of this community through a diverse set of characters and their interconnected stories.

One of the key aspects of polyphony in "Benang" is the use of multiple narrative voices. The novel features a cast of characters, each with their own distinctive voice, and it switches between these voices throughout the narrative. This allows the reader to gain insight into the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of different characters, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the Noongar community's history and identity. 

Kim Scott’s novel Benang is a polyphonic text-By using various narrative voices, Kim Scott not only represents different perspectives but also captures the diversity and richness of the Noongar culture.

The novel begins with the voice of the protagonist, Harley, who is a mixed-race child born to a Noongar mother and a white father. Harley's internal dialogue reflects the conflict he feels about his identity and his place within the Noongar community. His voice is just one of many in the novel, and as the story unfolds, readers are introduced to other characters, each with their own unique perspective and experiences.

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The inclusion of multiple narrative voices in "Benang" allows Kim Scott to explore the complex issue of identity. The characters in the novel grapple with questions of self-identity, cultural identity, and the interplay between their Noongar heritage and the influence of white settlers. For example, Harley's struggle with his mixed heritage and the tension between his Noongar and European roots is a central theme in the novel. By presenting his perspective alongside others, Scott highlights the diversity of experiences within the Noongar community, illustrating that there is no single, monolithic Indigenous identity but rather a spectrum of experiences and identities.

Polyphony in "Benang" also enables the exploration of historical and cultural themes. The novel delves into the complex history of the Noongar people, their interactions with European settlers, and the lasting impact of colonization. 

Kim Scott’s novel Benang is a polyphonic text-Through the various characters' voices and perspectives, the reader gains a deeper understanding of the historical events, cultural practices, and the effects of colonization on the Noongar community. This multifaceted approach allows for a more nuanced and comprehensive portrayal of history and culture.

The presence of multiple voices in "Benang" also serves to challenge the traditional Western narrative perspective. In much of Western literature, Indigenous peoples are often portrayed through the lens of the colonizers, resulting in a one-sided and often biased portrayal. Kim Scott's novel subverts this by giving voice to the Noongar characters, allowing them to tell their own stories and share their own perspectives on history and culture. This is a significant departure from the colonial narrative and is a crucial step towards decolonizing literature.

Furthermore, the polyphonic nature of the novel also highlights the importance of oral traditions and storytelling within Indigenous cultures. Noongar culture, like many Indigenous cultures, places a strong emphasis on storytelling as a means of passing down knowledge, history, and culture. 

Kim Scott’s novel Benang is a polyphonic text-Through the multiple voices in "Benang," Kim Scott emphasizes the power of storytelling and its role in preserving and transmitting the Noongar heritage. The novel itself becomes a testament to the tradition of storytelling, honoring the voices and experiences of the characters.

Another aspect of polyphony in "Benang" is the use of different narrative forms and styles. The novel includes various narrative techniques, such as first-person accounts, diary entries, and even fragments of Noongar language. These diverse narrative forms serve to create a mosaic of voices and perspectives, each contributing to the overall narrative tapestry. The use of Noongar language, in particular, is a powerful way to assert the cultural identity and presence of the Noongar people within the text.

Moreover, the novel's polyphonic structure has implications for the reader's experience. It challenges readers to engage with a more complex and layered narrative, encouraging them to immerse themselves in the diverse voices and experiences of the characters. This approach invites readers to confront their own assumptions and biases, fostering a deeper understanding of Indigenous cultures and histories.

In addition to its exploration of identity, history, and culture, "Benang" also addresses contemporary issues related to Indigenous rights, land ownership, and social justice. The novel's polyphonic structure allows it to connect past and present, demonstrating the ongoing impact of colonization and the resilience of the Noongar people. 

Kim Scott’s novel Benang is a polyphonic text-By giving voice to multiple generations of characters, the novel highlights the continuity of Indigenous struggles and the importance of acknowledging and addressing historical injustices.

Furthermore, the polyphonic nature of "Benang" challenges the conventional linear narrative structure. Instead of following a straightforward plotline, the novel weaves together various threads of storytelling, creating a non-linear and mosaic-like narrative. This structure mirrors the complexities of Indigenous histories and challenges the dominant Western narrative structure. It encourages readers to embrace a more fluid and interconnected understanding of time and history.


Kim Scott's novel "Benang" is a remarkable example of a polyphonic text that explores the complexities of identity, history, and culture within the Noongar community. By giving voice to a diverse set of characters and perspectives, Scott creates a narrative that is rich, multifaceted, and deeply reflective of the Noongar experience. 

The novel's polyphonic structure challenges conventional Western narratives and emphasizes the importance of oral traditions and storytelling within Indigenous cultures. "Benang" is not only a work of literature but also a testament to the power of storytelling and the resilience of Indigenous peoples. It is a significant contribution to the ongoing efforts to decolonize literature and to ensure that Indigenous voices are heard and respected.


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