‘The Young Man Will Go Far’: Educational Mobility and Christina Stead’s Compositional Practice in the Early 1930s


Education is a recurring concern in Stead's fiction, but nowhere is it more prominent as a theme than in her unpublished and largely ignored manuscript, ‘The Young Man Will Go Far’. Coterminous with her early novels, its incomplete segments afford a frank critique of educational and social inequalities and, more importantly, key insights into her motivation and art. Arguably these show the centrality of ideas and political views to her compositions, her skill in dramatizing them, and suggest that ideas were often an unsuspected source of inspiration for her writing.

A neglected but recurring theme of Stead’s fiction in the 1930s and beyond is education. This is hardly surprising, given her own recent experiences at Sydney Teachers College and neighbouring Sydney University, as well as her resolve in 1928 to leave Australia in search of expanded educational horizons which, she felt, awaited her in England and on the Continent. And she was right. At her first job interview in London she met her future mentor, employer and life-companion, Bill Blake, who proceeded to guide her deep into the labyrinth of Marxist-Leninism. The impact of this tutelage emerged clearly in the 1930s in a series of rapidly written novels with recognisable Marxist-Leninist subjects: the condition of the working class revolution and the bourgeoisie, banking and international finance, as well as in occasional short stories and work that remained in manuscript. In this material education is an ever-present concern that assumes two…

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Published 7 December 2016 in Rediscovering Christina Stead. Subjects: Australian literature - Manuscripts, Education, Politics, Christina Stead.

Cite as: Ackland, Michael. ‘‘The Young Man Will Go Far’: Educational Mobility and Christina Stead’s Compositional Practice in the Early 1930s.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 31, no. 6, 2016, doi: 10.20314/als.86153007d7.