Some Major Themes in the Novels of Katharine Susannah Prichard


A passionate love of the land and of the people who live close to the soil is the source of Katharine Susannah Prichard's writing. Like other writers of her time she was acutely conscious of the need for a national self-awareness, a realization of the unique qualities of Australian life. Her work is based on a belief, rather like that of the American frontier historians, that the things which are typically Australian were created in the course of man's struggle to make himself at home in the country. Thus for her the uniqueness of Australian life emerges from the response to a unique environment, and a study of the environment itself plays a very important role in the interpretation of the life of the people. As a result of this outlook Katharine Prichard has often been given, either directly or by implication, the title of 'Representative Australian Novelist'.

Her novels, published over the thirty-five years from 1915 to 1950, are remarkably homogeneous; it is almost as if they were planned deliberately to show the working out of constant themes and problems in the lives of isolated communities in as many different parts of Australia as possible. In all those set in Australia, it is the fringe of human habitation, including the deserts and forests, that are dealt with. The character of the land itself is the most deeply felt reality; the values of the communities of men which have grown up are largely determined by their relationship to the country, which almost actively creates their cohesion. Her concentration on communities living close to the soil is no less a product of her love of the country itself than it is of her social outlook.

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Published 1 June 1963 in Volume 1 No. 1. Subjects: Australian landscape - Literary portrayal, Community, Katharine Susannah Prichard.

Cite as: Malos, Ellen. ‘Some Major Themes in the Novels of Katharine Susannah Prichard.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 1963, doi: 10.20314/als.8ef1af154a.