Realism and the Australian novel in the 1930's

2017-02-08T04:18:59Z (GMT) by Grant, Donald J.
That the 1930's were a severe testing time for the Australian people is indisputable. That the events of the decade contributed to a re-examination and revision of fundamental principles is plausible. That the work of Australian writers has not received detailed examination in the context of its relation to the crises of those times is surprising. In the following pages I have tried to rectify this omission to some extent, in order to explore my contention that, with all their diversity, Australian novels of the thirties are characterized by their contribution to this reassessment of Australian society. My thesis is that the outstanding quality of the thirties' novelists is their proclivity to introspection, which expressed itself in a wide-ranging search through all aspects of their society for some explanation of the conditions that were so painfully obvious to them, and perhaps for some hint as to an appropriate course towards a better society in the future. It was, no doubt, because so many of the novels of the period were obviously concerned with social conditions, that there has been a tendency towards categorization, especially towards the use of all-embracing terms such as "realist" or "social-realist". It became clear to me that the use of such critical terms often involved over-simplifications, and, because of the variety of possible interpretations, frequently added to, rather than decreased the difficulty of criticism. As a result I have thought it desirable to look in some detail at the way in which words like realism have been used. An exhaustive study of this area would be far beyond the scope of the present work, but even the limited study that has been attempted extends well beyond the period of the thirties and far outside the confines of Australian literature. However, the study seems necessary if there is to be full appreciation of the comments made later in the work about the realism of Australian novels of the thirties.