michaelgriffith (michaelgriffith) wrote,

MA Fiction (Week 6 and 7)

We have been having a very rich time exploring the language and meaning of Henry Lawson's "Send Round the Hat" and Barbara Baynton's "Squeaker's Mate". Both stories reflect on experiences that gave shape to the Australian identity in the late 19th and early 20th century... but what an incredible difference in their point of view and their attitude to their subjects. There is Lawson's realist celebration of the virtues of philanthropy in the form of the blotched and tall "Giraffe" and there is Baynton's devestating denigration of the horrible self-serving, effeminate, runt of a little man, Squeaker who has no time for anyone except for himself. Baynton's language is savage and symbolic in its depiction of human ugliness and in its depiction of human strength. We dwelt for a while on that pregnant sentence (thanks Phil and Reza!): "But day after day she tested her strength, and whatever the result, was silent, thought white witnesses, halo-wise, gradually circled her brow and temples."
This is pure Baynton and so different from the clipped realism of Lawson's equally compelling style: "I hope I ain't disturbin' yer," he shouted, as he bent over my bunk, "but there's a cove-" "You needn't shout!" I interrupted, "I'm not deaf.".... and here are a few snapshots of the class hard at work, digesting, deciphering, composing... see you all next week for Patrick White, Olga Masters and Tim Winton!


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