For the Term of His Natural Life

Literary significance and criticism

The novel is considered one of the first examples of Tasmanian Gothic literature.

The original tragic ending was considered unsuitable for readers in the US, as a result of which Marcus Clarke added additional chapters taking the story up to the Victorian gold rush for US editions. Most modern publications and film media presentations of the story have been based on the US edition.

The story was meant as an alchemical allegory. Clarke had studied the industrial production of diamonds, in which an essential stage of ugly blackness precedes the beauty of the diamond's crystallisation.

Eventually, the novel became known as For the Term of His Natural Life but, originally, Clarke wanted the shorter title to suggest that this story was about the universal human struggle and the future Australian race. He wanted to celebrate the survival of the human spirit in the direst circumstances. With its cruelty and systemic violence, this book, more than any other, has come to define the Australian convict past.

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