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Joan London’s The Golden Age Presentation Of Humans Triumphing Over Adversity

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In Joan London’s book ‘The Golden Age’, set in middle of nowhere Perth, the story revolves around Frank Gold’s experiences with polio during his childhood years, and the effects both polio and war have on those around him and their families. Many of Frank’s peers are confronted with significant obstacles through the impacts of polio, war, and their personal relationships, forcing them to draw on any means available if they are to triumph over adversity. Now this is true as far as when a individual within the story is able and willing to fight and overcome adversity but, in some cases, they are not… One of the most eminent promoters of triumphing over adversity throughout the text is the intimacy the characters share between each other despite the almost unbearable events they must face, the characters gather the strength and resilience through their bonds with their peers.

At first in the text, Meyer is depicted as a untouchable figure in Frank’s life however, as the story unfolds, he is shown as an extremely pensive character struggling to come to terms given his separation from his city and his resentment of his failure for not protecting Frank from the polio virus. However, when Meyer visits Frank, witnesses the incomparable “bliss of being loved”, which motivates him and guides him in persisting through the isolation he faces in ‘middle of nowhere’ Perth. Frank’s love for Meyer makes his mind and body relaxed depicting to the reader how the feeling of being loved and cared about has a calming and soothing effect upon Meyer and Frank, permitting him to subsequently forget the guilt he feels about Frank’s contraction of polio. When this is conjoined with Meyer’s initial feelings that he was beyond care and “ultimately on the road of death”, Meyer’s altered perception upon receiving Frank’s affection insinuates how love has motivated him to survive. This is further emphasised by the nearness of Meyer’s personality before and after he spends time at the Golden Age with the other families. Previously, when alone, he seems hopeless and desolate, stating that the “wide streets felt empty”, signifying his dreary outlook on life in Perth. However, after spending time with his family and newfound friends, Meyer begins to understand that the “past seems further away”, even telling Ida that their son’s first Christmas at a polio hospital was great suggesting that although Frank is bound with polio and trapped at the Golden Age, the love they receive there is sufficient to help them clear this test. Thus, Meyer’s change of heart and newfound lightness of spirit indicates that the love he has received has granted him a reason to overcome adversity, allowing him to conquer his feelings about this place of exile and to find hope in not so illustrious times.

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The characters in The Golden Age are often challenged to triumph over adversity through the responsibility they think they have towards others, thus giving them a ‘spur’ to withstand the considerable challenges they are faced with. As the characters believe they must overcome for the sake of the others wellbeing, they seem to be left with no other option but to persist, thus allowing them to push themselves beyond what their mind allows them in the race to overcome adversity. In the Isolation Ward, although Elsa believes she is dying, she tries to keep herself alive as she has an underlying thought that if she was to die, her mother would also die, insinuating the extent of the responsibility that Elsa feels towards her mother. Elsa’s aims not to die, not for her own life but so her mother will survive which also depicts her love for her mother, shows her drive towards protecting her family. This commitment pushes her to concentrate on holding on, accentuating the strength Elsa must put towards this one thing triumphing over adversity to stay alive. Enduring the Isolation Ward, which she describes as her worst time, is near impossible for Elsa, and she is only able to come through because of her obligation towards her mother, who is breakable. Conversely, London draws a contrast between Elsa’s responsibility to her family and Frank’s refusal of this responsibility. Frank “refuses to be his parents only light”, and as he shrugs off the responsibility of being his parents’ source of happiness, in complete contrast to Elsa, he loses a motive for beating adversity. Instead of the fear many of the other characters speak of in their origins polio stories, Frank describes the experience as being ‘it was imminent to happen’, indicating his satisfaction and lack of interest towards his survival even though polio threatens him from life, he appears to have no reason to fight anymore and instead choses to have contracted it as it has taught his parents a lesson, showing his resentment towards his parents. In doing so, Joan London’s contrast between Elsa’s strong intent on living and fighting and Frank’s being tentative towards life or death shown when Sullivan mentions that Frank has “come to terms with death” depicts the direct connection established between the intimacy the characters feel they possess for others and their will to overcome adversity. This suggests that an underlying ‘obligation’ towards others can give characters a reason to resist and overcome, as it forces them to stay alive not for themselves but for the sake of others.

Through a perennial amount of origins, the will and desire to defeat adversity can be engendered, often characters are able to channel whatever resources are available to them in order to withstand seemingly unconquerable events showing their ability to be efficient even in times of distress. The love and care of others is a highlighted source of the strength and motivation of many characters, whereas others are obligated to overcome adversity through the responsibility they feel for others. Whereas, the will to survive can often be derived from the characters’ own identities and personalities, and the previously hidden overlooked aspects of them which come to light in times of hardship.

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Joan London’s The Golden Age Presentation Of Humans Triumphing Over Adversity. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 10, 2023, from
“Joan London’s The Golden Age Presentation Of Humans Triumphing Over Adversity.” Edubirdie, 21 Feb. 2022,
Joan London’s The Golden Age Presentation Of Humans Triumphing Over Adversity. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 Jun. 2023].
Joan London’s The Golden Age Presentation Of Humans Triumphing Over Adversity [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 21 [cited 2023 Jun 10]. Available from:
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