Joan Makes History- Kate Grenville

Topics: Culture / Pages: 6 (1262 words) / Published: Oct 3rd, 2005
Kate Grenville's episodic novel Joan Makes History (1988) is also "good to think with" in term of national identity. Grenville deviates from exploring Amanda Lohrey's suggestion of a "suitable past" (1996). Instead of celebrating what Lohrey describes as "mindless nationalism" (1996, p 150), in the invented traditions of Australian society, national identity, political progression and territory, Grenville explores the key periods of Australian history through the first-person narration, presenting subjective perspectives on the cultural ‘turning points' of the past century. The episodic structure of the story allows Grenville to fully explore the diverse cultural perspectives of these events, as thus communication the message of how Australia culture has greatly changed throughout history, and has been shaped by a sense of time and place. Grenville explores a British influence on conservative Australia through etiquette "a lady never shakes hands with her gloves on… frankly I panicked" (1988, p249) and the rights of women.

In Chapter 13, Grenville's characterisation is portrayed through Joan's repetition "I will make history", as it reveals her highly ambitious and determined nature. Joan yearns to make history "I was not born for this kind of small beer… I was born for more than this" and Grenville historically and religiously alludes to Joan of Arc "flat-chested on a prancing horse, speaking French as if born to it… leading men into battle behind me, and dying a glorious if dreadful fiery death." This psychologised construction of Joan shows the theme of feminism running through the novel, her desire to secede from "nothing but the laundry woman" to "me, Joan, a Member of Parliament"

However, while the contrast of the various episodes effectively demonstrates the change in Australian culture and reveals the "unsuitable" history which is not commemorated, the juxtaposition of the continuing story of Joan and Duncan against these episodes is essential

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