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The Australian Novel 1830-1980

A Thematic Introduction


John Scheckter

This volume introduces the reader to a powerful and rewarding territory: the Australian novel. Both drawing from and rebelling against the power of Europe. Australian writers asserted from the beginning that experience «down under» demands thorough observation and thoughtful expression. Exploration of the vast land, framed by the horrors of penal establishment and challenged by encounters with Aboriginal cultures, produced novels of irony and expectation, cynicism and celebration - works that demonstrate the flexibility and unflinching clarity that remain characteristically Australian down to the postcolonial present.


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1. The Origin of Species 9


Chapter One The Origin of Species "What do you think? Is there any chance of their permanent reformation?" Perker shrugged his shoulders doubtfully, but observing Mr. Pickwick's anxious and disappointed look, rejoined: "Of course there is a chance. I hope it may prove a good one." Dickens, The Pickwick Papers In the heart of Dorset, a two-lane bridge crosses the Frome at the village of Wool. It is over this bridge, narrowed in Thomas Hardy's artistic vision, that Angel Clare carries the horrified Tess. Another kind of horror lurks in the place as well, even in daylight with the span at its mundane width: a bronze sign, only slightly aged, declares that anyone causing willful damage to the bridge may be transported for the term of seven years. The notice is jarring to the visitor enchanted by the old, green lawns and thatched houses of Wool, pointing as it does to the undercurrents of misery and desperate violence in English life. "Transportation," of course, is a legalism for dragging a person in chains halfway around the world to serve at involuntary labor. Standing on the bridge, looking up from the sign, the traveler can see all of Hardy's Wessex and a good deal beyond, all the way to Australia. The first colonization of Australia was undertaken in a mood quite unlike the optimism which often prompted North American settlement. The policies of transportation reflected harsh social attitudes, and were hardly intended to produce anything resembling equality or independence. To be...

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