Late Retrospectives on Twentieth-Century Catastrophes: the Novels of Ronald McKie
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This essay examines the representation of early twentieth-century Australia in three novels, The Mango Tree, The Crushing, and Bitter Bread, which were published in the1970s by the well-known journalist Ronald McKie. The novels make the catastrophes of World War I and the Great Depression, and the frenzies of the intervening Jazz Age palatable and engaging for a later, comparatively comfortable Australian readership. They seek further to reconcile readers with the pain of living by promoting ethics of courage, kindness and decency. The novels assume and defend a central Anglo-Celtic identity for Australians. While they reject English cultural and political control, they value the input of Continental European and Asian immigrants. Living Aboriginal people are a notable absence from all three novels, but The Mango Tree seeks to appropriate Aboriginal feeling for country for the native-born descendants of settlers. Through comic-satiric depictions of life in rural Queensland communities McKie's fiction warns of the dangers of insularity for the nation as a whole.
Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (JASAL)
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Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature)