A Tale of Two Countries: Jack Maggs and Peter Carey’s Fiction


Peter Carey has generally preferred to fictionalise Australia at a remove, to reimagine it, shape-shifted out of its present appearance by science fiction transformations, or by movements out of present time. The mirror his fiction holds up to late-twentieth-century Australia and its international context never simply reflects, like Stendhal's, but distorts, like those in the amusement parks that recur in his work. In this sense, his imagination has always been Dickensian, so it is intriguing to find that in his latest novel Carey has rewritten the story of Magwitch, the convict in Great Expectations. In doing so he has made many changes to Dickens's original: switching the centre of interest from Pip (renamed Henry Phipps) to Magwitch (renamed Jack Maggs) and Dickens himself (renamed Tobias Oates); telling a tale of two countries and two characters; and claiming the story as an originary Australian narrative.

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Published 1 October 1997 in Volume 18 No. 2. Subjects: Characterisation, Defining an Australian literature, Fiction, Metafiction, Narrative structure, Narrative techniques, Plot, Peter Carey.

Cite as: Hassall, Anthony J.. ‘A Tale of Two Countries: Jack Maggs and Peter Carey’s Fiction.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 18, no. 2, 1997, doi: 10.20314/als.ef67f2bd42.