Ashes are a symbol of rebirth in the final scene, showing how from death, new life arises. After Jimmy dies in the final Act, Mary gives birth to a baby boy at Moore River Reserve. As part of a traditional ritual, Gran covers the baby in ashes. This unconventional act displays Gran’s wise resourcefulness and experience in delivering children, as well as a rejection of modern conventions. In a more symbolic sense, the ashes represent new life rising from death and the baby's deceased ancestors. This birth is in some sense a rebirth of Jimmy, who has just died. Ashes represent a generational cycle that perpetuates family. Indeed, the baby is even named Jimmy.
Neal's Newspaper (Motif)
Throughout the play, Mr. Neal, who presides over the Aborigines at Moore River Reserve, is seen in his office reading a newspaper. This motif represents the fact that he is more invested in current events, politics, and bureaucracy, than in the actual lives of his charges at the reservation. It becomes a symbol of his negligence as a leader.
Sugar is symbolic of sympathy and care, analogous to the sweetness of sugar, and the symbol represents pleasant emotions that are desirable. However, as the name “No Sugar” suggests, it is the absence of care towards Indigenous Australians that defines the narrative. The lack of sugar is symbolic of the cruelty that is exhibited towards Aborigines throughout the play.
Sugar is a symbol of the care and love which the Millimurra family tries to hold onto, represented by Sam “lacing [mugs of tea] generously with sugar." This sugar represents the kindness that the family members show one another.
The symbolic meaning of sugar also comes up when Neville speaks to Jimmy on the day of his release from prison. Jimmy is pushy about wanting his travel voucher to get back home and Neville tells him, "sugar catches more flies than vinegar," as a way of suggesting that he will get farther if he is kinder and gentler in his temperament.
Soap is a symbol of hygiene, a European attempt to civilize Indigenous people and assimilate them into “civilized” society. By attempting to teach Indigenous people to use modern hygiene, white authorities attempt to transform their traditional way of life into a more modern lifestyle. Ironically enough, however, the authorities cannot even provide the simple commodity of soap in the rations, and they fail in their own schemes. Gran rejects these attempts at modernization when she states that Milly should use the tjeerung bush instead of soap to clean her hair; this illustrates her connection to a reliable and traditional relationship with nature. The removal of soap from the ration list is therefore symbolic of the white “protection” authority’s failure to look after the hygiene and health of Indigenous people.
Blood is symbolic of a primal connection to the land, as well as the element of life. In Act 1 Scene 1, Jimmy cuts his finger and watches the blood drip to the ground. This stage direction is symbolic of a personal identification with the earth. Symbolically, Jimmy is part of the earth and the earth is his own lifeblood. This symbol represents the connection that the Aborigines have with the natural landscape, which is forcefully taken from them. The acquisition of land by European settlers robs Aborigines of their identity and life, their connection to the Earth on which they live. The image of dripping blood also symbolizes Jimmy’s violence and willingness to give up his life for the sacred land. This image in Act 1 foreshadows his death, while also characterizing his fearlessness and vigor.
No Sugar Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for No Sugar is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.