Mateship, Individualism and the Production of Character in Australian Fiction


Examines the mode of characterisation prevalent in Australian fiction, a mode which presents character as “the product of social, extrinsic determinants rather than as the expression of an individuated, intrinsic self” (447). Argues that the prominence of this mode of characterisation in Australian narrative tradition undermines familiar assumptions about the centrality of individualism to the the literary version of Australian national or personal identity. The literary convention of mateship is particularly dependent on a representation of character ideologically opposed to the concept of individualism and the individual. Stories by Henry Lawson and Patrick White provide examples to support the argument that character in Australian literature is mainly used as “a way of depicting the intrinsic self, not of the character, but of the society which produces them” (456).

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Published 1 October 1984 in Volume 11 No. 4. Subjects: Australian fiction, Australian myths, Characterisation, Critical theories & approaches, Fictional characters, Individualism, Mateship, Patrick White, Henry Lawson.

Cite as: Turner, Graeme. ‘Mateship, Individualism and the Production of Character in Australian Fiction.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 11, no. 4, 1984, doi: 10.20314/als.87898722b8.