Australia Short Stories

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A Gentleman’s Agreement by Elizabeth Jolley, The Drover’s Wife by the Henry Lawson and The Kangaroo by Eve Sallis are three short stories that all convey a strong sense of Australian identity which contrasts to stereotypical gender roles. At the heart of each of these short stories is a brave independent woman protecting their families. Landscape is represented differently in each short story but it is used to compliment the strong women in A Gentleman’s Agreement, The Drover’s Wife and The Kangaroo.

Elizabeth Jolley’s A Gentleman’s Agreement, tells the story of a working class single mother who fools a rich doctor into letting her and her family live on his land for the rest of their lives. There is almost a complete reversal of stereotypical gender roles; as usually it is men who are the decision makers and manipulators in society but in this story it is the woman. The title of A Gentleman’s Agreement, portrays the mother (who is the protagonist) as smooth talking businessperson. Although she is poor she is very intelligent, independent as well as being a very caring person. She even takes advantage of the rich by letting her poor neighbours into the luxury apartments she cleans. ‘While these people were away at their offices or on business trips… We had wedding receptions and parties in the penthouse and the old folk came in to soak their feet.’ There is no dominant male figure in the family, so the only provider and carer for the children is the mother, although she does have a lazy, rude son who can’t keep at one job. The mother represents one type of well loved Australian identity, that is battler, the underdog who is at first disadvantaged, who succeeds in the end. If the read the text is read for a gendered reading she also represents clever, determined woman who can successfully look after her family without a man.

Australian landscape is represented as a sanctuary for the family in The Gentleman’s Agreement, it makes them happy and brings...
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