Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Raymond Gaita, Romulus, My Father (1998)

Raymond Gaita’s Romulus, My Father (1998) began as a eulogy for his dearly-loved deceased father that was later developed into a biography that, at one level, provided an account of a father−son relationship but, at another level, provided Gaita with a vehicle to promote his philosophy for living morally good life, a philosophy that is presented in the text as appreciated by both the father, his son, and by other major characters. 

Raimond Gaita presents his father Romulus and his father’s best friend Hora as role models from which the audience can learn the principles for leading a morally good life.  Although this philosophy is depicted as that of the author’s father, it is endorsed by the son except on a few occasions where minor differences of opinion are expressed.  In addition, there are significant sections of the text that can be read as autobiographical, which outline Raimond Gaita’s experiences and the influences on his world view that were outside of his academic study. 

Above all, for someone to live a morally good life they need to be of good character.  This entails abiding by the virtue of honesty and being true to one’s word.  It also involves being charitable and generous to others, with this principally being expressed as a preparedness to help others in need.  It also involves expressing a love and appreciation of other creatures, which includes humanity and extends to the world of animals.  Raimond Gaita also recommends the value of producing quality work for its own sake.  He also argues that the capacity for hard work has value in itself rather than seeing it as a means to obtain profit and material gain.  Raimond Gaita also sees value in respecting great humanitarians as role models, and he advocates expressing open-mindedness regarding new ideas and ways of thinking. 

As a ‘baby boomer’ who came of age in the 1960s, Raimond Gaita was profoundly influenced by the political, social and cultural zeitgeist of those times, which featured the rise of the New Left and hippy counter-culture, which was later understood as the values of the politically correct Left.  Raimond Gaita was involved with radical left-wing politics while he was a student at the University of Melbourne.  Consequently, the text is sympathetic towards, or compatible with, the range of views and values advocated by the politically correct Left, such as feminism.  Yet his work differs from what is politically correct in some respects, notably in Raimond Gaita’s appreciation of the vehement anti-communism of the Eastern European migrants of his father’s generation.   

Raimond Gaita also differs marginally but importantly from the orthodoxies of political correctness in his account of the post-war migrant experience during assimilation era of the 1950s and early 1960s.  This is evident in his acknowledgement of the tolerance and acceptance shown by many Australians from the host population towards the Eastern European migrants in their midst, when it is standard practice in politically correct literature on the migrant experience to condemn Australians from this era as ‘racist’ and to dwell mainly on the negative dimensions of migrant settlement experience.  Interestingly, Raimond Gaita also acknowledges the flaws and shortcomings of some migrants along with their virtues, which is something rarely acknowledged in politically correct literature on the migrant experience.  In addition, Raimond Gaita expresses his support for the policy of multiculturalism that was introduced in the 1970s but he also criticises it for falling short of what he believes are its worthy ideals. 

Raimond Gaita’s text is highly critical of examples of bureaucratic insensitivity and incompetence, which he found to be evident in the system of migrant settlement, in the school system, in the child protection and adoption system, as well as in the hospital and psychiatric treatment systems. 

Raimond Gaita’s accounts of the mental illness that plagued many members of his family and their friends can be appreciated as an argument for greater sympathy and understanding for those who suffer from these conditions, to hopefully reduce some of the misunderstanding and social stigma that is commonly associated with mental illness compared to most physical illnesses.   

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2021 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Romulus, My Father meaning, Romulus, My Father themes, Romulus, My Father analysis, Romulus, My Father notes