Australian literature covers a wide range of works and genres with diverse subject matters, yet among these works, common themes can be discerned. In particular, the concept of struggle has been occupied widely by writers as a means of documenting Australian society and attitudes towards national identity and gender. Not only does Australian literature cover a wide range of components, but so does the Australian National Identity (ANI). Just like the concept of struggle has been highlighted in Australian literature, struggle can also be found in the ANI. Struggle—specifically seen in the landscape and war has been incorporated into the works of well-known Australian authors, Miles Franklin, AB Facey, and David Malouf.
The first struggle which has influenced Australian society and literature is that of the landscape. A country’s landscape is more than just scenery; it is the interaction between people and place, the basis on which a society is built. Landscapes can offer enjoyment, tranquility, economic growth, and a sense of belonging to an area with a distinct cultural identity. The Australian landscape in particular has played a dominant role in the lives of the people who reside there. Although most Australians live in cities, the bush and bush life is seen as uniquely Australian and is integral in the ANI. The bush evoked themes of struggles through its harsh and hot climate which caused difficulty farming land, brought fatigue, and left all who inhabited it with no energy. It is this landscape that has inspired writers to document different lifestyles involving the land. The concept of struggle is highlighted in the novel, My Brilliant Career (1901) by the well-known author, Miles Franklin (1879-1954). The struggle in the environment can be seen when Sybylla, the novel’s protagonist, reveals the climate and just how hard making a living was in the bush. She says:
But when 1894 went out without rain, and ’95, hot, dry, pitiless ’95 succeeded it, there
came a time when it was impossible to make a living. The scorching furnace-breath
winds shriveled every blade of grass, dust and the moan of starving flock filled the air,
vegetables became a thing of the past (Franklin, 1901, p. 22). Here it is shown how severe and hot the climate was and how it negatively impacted farming and the ability to grow produce. The harsh landscape also affected the animals Sybylla’s family cared for. This can be seen when Sybylla says:
The calves I had reared died one by one, and the cows followed in their footsteps. Many
an extra line of care furrowed the brows of the dis-hearted bushmen then. Not only was
their living taken from them by the drought, but there is nothing more heartrending than
to have poor beasts, especially dairy cows, so familiar, valued, and loved, pleading for
food day after day in their piteous dumb way when one has it not to give (p.22). Not only was the landscape affecting the cow’s physical health, but seeing the cows go hungry and not be able to function was an emotional drain for Sybylla and her family. Trying to take care of the cows that were not yet dead was also dreadful and disturbed the family’s physical health. Sybylla proclaims “Weariness! Weariness!” after attempting to lift the cows that were too weak to stand (p. 25). Sybylla says weariness was, “written across my mother’s delicate careworn features, and found expression in my father’s knitted brows and dusty face” (p. 25). This process of continually worrying and slaving over the cows caused exhaustion, making “all nature weary, all but the sun, who seemed to glory in his power, relentless and untiring…leering down upon his helpless victims” (p. 26). Here, the hot, harsh climate is highlighted again. One thing that has impacted Australian land over time is bush fires. They are a worry in such a dry and hot climate and living in the bush meant that one always needed to be aware of the chance. The threat of bush fires can be seen in...
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