Patrick White's the Aunt's Story Close Analysis

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The Aunt's Story - SAC

Patrick White's controversial novel, The Aunt's Story is the odyssey of spinster, Theodora Goodman and her journey to self discovery. Comprised of three sections, each representing a different part of her journey we, as the reader, follow Theodora Goodman as she travels to France, America and finally to a state of understanding and self discovery. Dense, unconventional and complex as it is, it is no wonder The Aunt's Story has been so widely and so harshly critiqued. The second section “Jardin Exotique”, in which White applies a “stream of consciousness” technique has been a popular source of discord among critics, with many claiming this is to be the “downfall” of the novel. Critic Roger Gooding shares this view, whilst also drawing on it, stating that The Aunt's Story is a “total failure”[1] as a novel.

Gooding acquaints his reader to his criticism with the line “White's novel is a total failure..”[1], this bold and striking effect is ironically reminiscent of the opening line of the very novel he is criticising - “But old Mrs. Goodman did die at last.”(pg 1). Gooding argues that White's novel “fails” in comparison to the “great novels that proceed it (Dickens and Conrad)”[1], bleating that White “fails to engage the reader”[1] due to the fact that his prose is “literary nonsense”[1]. This irrational conclusion has obviously been drawn on the basis of the belief that White's novel is not “conventional”. Whilst this is a sound interpretation – White's novel is far from conventional – to conclude on the basis of this that it is “anarchic drivel”[1] and “fails” as a novel represents just how biased a view Gooding holds. This view is to reject the notion of progress and forward thinking. Change is an inevitable aspect of all forms of art, and indeed of life. To reject a piece of art based on the fact it is “unconventional” would be to reject progression and evolution itself. Picasso was once shunned and laughed at, but now represents...
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