Vance Palmer and the Unguarded Awareness


Vance Palmer's novels and short stories are not confined to any one area or social group. His settings range from outback cattle stations to middle-class life in the Melbourne suburbs. But his central interest is in small communities composed of fishermen, orchardists, opal gougers, of men who have a direct and strenuous relationship to Nature. One is aware, in these works, of the illimitable distance surrounding the tiny areas of effort and cultivation. In the main, Palmer's fiction explores and celebrates the state of Australian man, of him who must enter into a viable relationship with Nature to find completeness of being. Nature, in Palmer's view, nourishes manhood, both in resisting and responding to the labours of the husbandman. Manhood, though, may be proved at one remove from wrestling with Nature —in employing one's energies to serve those who engage in this strenuous toil. The model of such a man is Macy Donovan, hero of Golconda (1948), in his vigorous younger years as an organiser of the ore miners on the Queensland field. The purest model of Australian manhood, of him who finds fulfilment in his involvement with Nature, is Lew Gallaway, the mature young fisherman of The Passage (1930).

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Published 1 May 1974 in Volume 6 No. 3. Subjects: Gender - Literary portrayal, Natural environment - Literary portrayal, Vance Palmer.

Cite as: Burns, D. R.. ‘Vance Palmer and the Unguarded Awareness.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 6, no. 3, 1974, doi: 10.20314/als.933f2b3717.