Such is Life

The Representation of Landscape in For the Term of His Natural Life and Such is Life College

In a discussion of Australian writers of the late nineteenth century, Gerry Turcotte writes: “Their exploration of the anxieties of the convict system, the terrors of isolated stations at the mercy of vagrants and nature, the fear of starvation or of becoming lost in the bush, are distinctly Gothic in effect” (3). Here Turcotte highlights a tendency among late 19th-century Australian writers to use Gothic literary conventions to describe an antagonistic relationship between the Australian landscape and its early European inhabitants. That tendency can be understood more fully by means of a careful consideration of the differences between two representative works: Marcus Clarke’s For the Term of His Natural Life and Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life. For the Term of His Natural Life uses personification to portray the Australian landscape as a hostile presence, complicit in oppressing the imprisoned convicts. In contrast, Such is Life presents a more benign view of the landscape, with its narrator finding the harshness of the Australian bush a source of enlightenment. Though the two novels were written during a similar period in Australian literature, they present two different views of the relationship between the Australian...

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