Helen Garner

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This essay analyses the opening chapter of Helen Garner’s novel The Spare Room. This essay seeks to determine the relationship between Garner and the key subjects and themes of the book and how this influenced its writing, to detail the research methodology Garner utilized in its creation and to determine to what extent these methods are visible, reliable or objective; to examine the ways in which the declared genre has influenced the reader’s reception of the text; and to analyse how the writer’s use of techniques of representation have shaped the work’s ethical implications. The Spare Room details the fictional story of Helen who plays host to her friend, Nicola, while she pursues alternative therapy for bowel cancer that has been determined to be terminal. It is from this that we understand that the key themes of the narrative are terminal illness, enduring hardship with friends, alternative medicine and ultimately death. Garner revealed in an interview with Jason Steger that the inspiration behind these themes came in the form of shared experiences as she had a friend stay with her who was suffering from terminal cancer and that she was able to draw from these experiences in order to create the text. Garner told Steger that “It’s much more interesting for me to think that taking a chunk of experience and mushing it up together with other things that are inventible, remembered from some other time or stolen from other people’s stories … and see if I can make it into something that works, an object, a little machine that runs.” It is these real experiences that from the basis of the research undertaken by Garner in order to create the work. Knox (10) declares personal experience to be ‘the toil that we till, and we do so in a way that does impinge on real relationship[s].’ To this end, Garner understands that relationships in her own life have been drastically altered, even destroyed through the use of real life experiences in her work (Legge). Garner craftily...
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