Barbara Hanrahan’s Novels


It is a truism, in the world of Barbara Hanrahan's novels, that human beings are torn between opposing forces; the divided self is one of her most constant motifs, and its bitter uncertainties may bedevil major and minor characters alike. Doll Strawbridge in The Frangipani Gardens is, by day, 'an old maid, dead and dry' (p. 174) with 'prissy lips and Queen Mary dresses' (p. 144) who hangs her underwear on the clothes line folded 'so you shouldn't see their private parts* (p. 56) and paints ladylike, lifeless watercolours; by night, in her locked studio, she produces splendid, sensuous paintings which assault the eye and often foretell the future with supernatural accuracy. The divided characters are mostly torn between the desire to conform (sometimes to a parental dream, sometimes to the expectations of society) and the instinct (not necessarily a conscious realisation) that conformity is for them diminution, aridity. Sometimes the self-division is sexual, and the character wavers between heterosexual and homosexual longing.

The full text of this essay is available to ALS subscribers

Please sign in to access this article and the rest of our archive.

Published 1 May 1983 in Volume 11 No. 1. Subjects: Art, Fictional characters, Literary career, Literary techniques, structures & modes, Barbara Hanrahan.

Cite as: Sykes, Alrene. ‘Barbara Hanrahan’s Novels.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 11, no. 1, 1983, doi: 10.20314/als.16f7768dc4.