Comparison of the surfer – judith wright and strictly ballroom

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3 April 2016

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In order to feel a true sense of belonging, one must endure and overcome challenges, for in doing so they gain an appreciation of self and self worth. Conversely, those who do not test themselves and the barriers, can only experience a superficial sense of belonging that can not result in a deep connection. Judith Wright’s poem “The Surfer” presents an individual who puts himself up against the waves everyday, and thrives on the feeling he gets when he conquers them. Luhrman’s film “Strictly Ballroom” is focused around the standards of ballroom dancing by which an individual must abide in order to be accepted; the protagonist, Scott Hastings, finds in Spanish dance, a passion that allows him to successfully act against these norms. Both “The Surfer” and “Strictly Ballroom” notably exemplify the awareness and appreciation of self and self worth that is achieved from triumphing over challenges and to reach an enhanced sense of fulfillment.

PARA 1- the surfer

As a consequence of persistence and endurance, difficult tasks can be conquered and this can significantly benefit the individual, heightening their sense of self worth and consciousness of belonging. This idea is portrayed in “The Surfer”, as the individual defeats the waves everyday, although undergoing pain every time. The euphoric feeling he gets as he rides the wave is worth the pain he suffers. As the surfer dives through the wave, a shock of pain is to be born, as with “thorns in the face, stinging”. The use of kinesthetic imagery conveys to the reader just how harsh the pain is and “the gulls went wheeling in air as he did in water, with delight” is symbolic of freedom. The comparison made between the two, shows that he is not bound by restrictions.The word choice “delight” is also important as it evokes the significant amount of joy that the surfer feels when in the water. Wright uses the metaphor “last leaf of gold” to imply that the last moments of belonging must come to an end and in doing so has conveyed to the reader, all of the surfers hard work has given him a greater sense of belonging. It is evident that the surfer endures and overcomes his challenges, and through this he truly appreciates the outcome and the achievement he attains.

PARA 2- strictly ballroom

A heightened sense of belonging through the overcoming of challenges are also seen in Strictly Ballroom. The main character; Scott works through the spanish dance culture with Fran to defeat the authority and therefore giving him the power and fulfillment of individuality he would not have gotten any other wise if he did not object and take upon the risks. The challenge of authority is established in the lingering gaze between Barry Fife and Scott Hastings. Both have facial expression of intent which intensifies the difficulty that Scott is confronted with to win over the federation. His acceptance of the challenge is demonstrated as he steps out of the spot light after dancing in and out, it is symbolic of his fight to whether he will be a follower or he will go his own way.

His dance moves acquired from the spanish culture enhance his and his partners confidence shown in the medium close up shot as Fran and Scott spin around holding each other, their true happiness, tenacity and passion act as a substantial threat. They’re efforts are rewarded at the end when the diagetic sound of doug clapping is heard and a round of applause erupts, symbolizing the changing heart of the dance world and the respect and acceptance of the new dance moves. As a result of taking risks and overthrowing authority, Scott enlightened the ballroom dancers and deepened his sense of self worth to have a rightful place within the dance world.

PARA 3- comparison and contrast

Challenges faced by the Wright and Luhrmans protagonists represent barriers which restrict them from discovering or achieving an awareness and appreciation of a genuine sense of belonging. The texts reveal the unique obstacles they encounter and the ways they deal with them to achieve a deepened sense of self and self worth. Scott is oppressed by the federation, he breaks the rules by dancing the pace doble with an outcast, Fran, who becomes his support. This is depicted at the pan pacific grand final, as Barry Fife says “That is the future of dance sport, and no one but no one is going to change that”. This dialogue is significant to the following scene as the camera cuts to a long shot of Fran and Scott posing confidently wearing colours of red, suggesting courage and gold, demonstrating strength. The costuming used shows they have contradicted Fifes statement and weakened the federation, as seen in the high camera angle and costuming as Fife falls down in a blue coat that symbolizes power.

Therefore, proving that Fran and Scott’s persistence and development have allowed them to break down the barriers of their challenges. Whereas the surfer needs to overcome his physical pain to be successful in his challenge, in order to achieve fulfillment, Scott, by comparison, needs to both build his own confidence through practice and refinement of his craft and overcome the rules of the federation. The surfers minimum amount of time before he rides a wave into shore is crucial and is symbolic of his connection he has made to the surf. “Last leaf of gold” is metaphorical for the remaining time he has before the sun goes down. The word choice of “gold” shows that he savors the time and appreciates the fulfillment he has achieved from his efforts. It is evident that to achieve fulfillment, Scott must overcome the rules of the Federation with confidence and passion whereas the surfer needs to overcome his own physical pain resulting in a more complex understanding of belonging.

CONCLUSION- summary of points

The barriers and challenges presented, notably enhance the understanding and appreciation of the outcomes. Luhrman and Wrights protagonists have significantly portrayed how challenges influence the overall achievement of the individual. Through going against the federation by performing illegal steps in which prove to be of more value, Scott achieves a greater degree of appreciation of self and self worth. Where as the surfer suffers the discomfort of the challenge and pushes through them due to his understanding of the achievement that will come through his perseverance. Ultimately, a true sense of belonging is obtained through the endurance of challenges and the overcoming of barriers to attain a genuine insight of self and self worth.

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StudyScroll. (2016). Comparison of the surfer – judith wright and strictly ballroom [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 26 September, 2023]

"Comparison of the surfer – judith wright and strictly ballroom" StudyScroll, Apr 3, 2016. Accessed Sep 26, 2023.

"Comparison of the surfer – judith wright and strictly ballroom" StudyScroll, Apr 3, 2016.

"Comparison of the surfer – judith wright and strictly ballroom" StudyScroll, 3-Apr-2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 26-Sep-2023]

StudyScroll. (2016). Comparison of the surfer – judith wright and strictly ballroom. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 26-Sep-2023]

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