Animal Studies Journal


Animals on a grand scale are victims of climate change and of natural disaster. With no voice within human cultures, their plight can be silenced and forgotten once an extreme weather event is over and when media coverage of the devastation has ceased. The creative arts have an important role to play in raising public awareness of and empathy for animals impacted by natural disaster. This paper presents a critical discourse analysis of the Australian play Fire by Scott Alderdice (2017), framed by Animal Studies perspectives. The voices of the animals in Fire, as expressed through language – dialogue and narration – are the focus of the analysis to determine how the play engages in the concepts of considering other-than-human interests; imagining and representing animals and their significance; personifying species’ presence using human speech to offset facelessness; and inspiring humans to take responsibility in this time of climate crisis and natural disaster. Fire provides an exemplar for theatrical expression giving voice to animals in times of crisis. An examination of the narration and dialogue of the animal characters reveals a respectful representation of native Australian animals, who are shown to be sentient and social beings intimately entwined with the environment in which they live. The language use by the animals throughout elicits recognition and empathy and subsequently feelings of grief and of guilt. The play inspires humans to take responsibility by considering animals’ perspectives and interests; understanding their significance in the world; and performing our role to protect the natural environment.