As the title 'In and Out of Step' suggests, the plot is built around character relationships and the themes of:
- belonging and alienation
- loss and gain
Central to the theme of BELONGING is the ripple effect of life events on relationships and in a community and the way those events and relationships shape people and their perceptions of belonging or not belonging.
The central plot revolves around Cassie Sleight's quest to belong against a backdrop of a world undergoing social change. Her story traces how Cassie is shaped by events, people, and experiences in her world - past and present. The world of Keimera functions as a character in its own right.
The story opens with Cassie arriving in the seemingly idyllic coastal NSW town of Keimera. She has discarded her dream of a career in dance and left home. Dance influences how she interprets the world and how she deals with its adversities.
Having left the familiar circle of family and friends in search of a seachange, Cassie starts her teaching career in the English faculty of Keimera High. Her workplace represents one of the last bastions of male supremacy and her male co-workers want to keep it that way. She boards at Madison House, historically significant and representing something of the former pastoral glory of the region.
In the high school setting, Cassie comes into contact with Mark Talbut, a man struggling to be modern yet threatened by power shifts in the workplace and society. At Madison House, Cassie experiences new perspectives on relationships and is challenged to become the woman she was meant to be and not what circumstance made her.
While readers learn about Cassie's new world and the barriers to her fitting in and becoming accepted, the secrets of her past surface through a series of flashback scenes. Those scenes reveal why Cassie felt she no longer belonged in the world that she left behind in Sydney and why she chose to be in exile.
As the story unfolds, Cassie realises something potentially sinister is happening in her new community. What should she do about it? Is the so-called 'good guy' really a wolf or just a man out of step with the times?
Cassie's quest to belong occurs in the workplace, in her new social and personal arenas. It is only after coming to terms with her past that she is able to move forward into a very different future. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, she is reborn through adversity.
'She thought of all the people she had met. Some wore masks that disguised their real intent. Others remained oblivious of the impact of their actions. A number rang true like quality crystal. She was lucky to know the difference now.'
In the novel, Cassie’s journey to belong contrasts with the journeys of Mavis Mills, Michael Madison, Mark Talbut, Kate Denford, Samantha Smith, and Rajes Chandran. The stories of secondary characters add dimension to my exploration of the novel's themes. Absolutely every character experience serves a function in this about tale about life and love. You may have to think about how and why.
'In and Out of Step' is also a snapshot of Australian life and some key issues in play at the time. Those issues remain hot topics today. It is based on extensive research and placed within a fictional context.
Strands of colour,
Separate yet interwoven.
Influences the weaving,
Defines the other.
A complex tapestry:
Indiscernible when close;
Recognisable at a distance.
HSC Area of Study students should also have a look at the 90 second YouTube dance video at http://youtu.be/5HdLfeX6d78 The dance video works well as a related text for BELONGING.
The team here have also provided an in depth analysis of the dance video to help students http://www.christinemknight.com.au/author-christine-m-knights-blog/belonging-a-related-text-analysis-for-hsc-students