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Demonstrate your comprehension of gender in the primary texts Essay Example

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The Theme of Gender in the Works of Lawson and Baynton

The Australian history has been affiliated to danger and adventure since the first documented settlement. It is widely perceived as a land of men especially during the colonization era in the 18th century. The image of women in the Australian society is attributed to the nationalist mythology based on the Bushman promoted masculinity at the expense of femininity. As a result, the Australian literature is assumed that it has no place for women (Lee 90). The primary aim of the paper is to explore the theme of gender as portrayed by Henry Lawson and Barbara Baynton who are some of the ancient authors in the Australian literature (Murray). Baynton and Lawson are both Australian authors that coexisted in the 1890s, during the Bush Realism popularization. In her fictional literature, Baynton observed women as resourceful, hardworking and regularly preyed by men. Lawson perceived men as the primary pillars in a family and courageous in dangerous adventures, especially in the bush life. The theme of gender inequalities as perceived in these texts will also be reviewed since they are closely associated. The review will demonstrate a comprehensive illustration of how men and women related in during the authorship of the primary texts by the two novelists.

The debate on the real identity of Australians started in a nationalist periodical known as the Bulletin, where Lawson published his first work, Borderland, which would later trigger a series of responses from assorted authors (Elder). The Lawson-Paterson Debate, also known as the Bulletin Debate struggled to establish the true identity of Australia. Lawson stimulated the debate by detailing the differences between the realities of bush life and the idealistic poetry of the era. He laments that he could not find poets in the Southern Land and proclaims the only way one could find idealized land was if the cities would be irrigated and turned into humanized bushes. Paterson responds to Lawson with In Defense of the Bush, by describing Lawson as a person who lacks toughness to deal with challenges and hence not a real bushman. Paterson suggests that if Lawson perceived life in the bush as tough, he could opt to life in the city.

Briefly, the debate about the true nature of the Australian culture compelled Lawson and Paterson to write their perspectives of on the Australian bush. Lawson believed that Paterson was a city bushman. Paterson responded by stating that Lawson’s perception of the landscape was dominated by doom and gloom. Criticism surrounding the views held by Lawson and Paterson cemented the bushman as the central identity of Australians. Whereas Paterson regarded the bush as peaceful and calm, Lawson related it as a dangerous adventure that was full of struggles.

Noticeably, Lawson and Paterson reinforced the idealism of Bush life as the true Australian way of life, where men dominated the scene. The dual introduced the theme of masculinity as the dominant uniqueness in the Australian culture. Since they were both males, their perceptions of the bush life inspired the narrative of male dominance in the Australian literature without their conscious. Most of the responses to the Bulletin Debate were centered on attempts to describe the life of a true bushman, as the real Australian individuality (Barrett 88). The women on the Bulletin Debate were widely ignored, which inspired female authors, such as Baynton, to write their version of a bush-women to correspond with the bush life legend in Australia.

Lawson painted a grimy picture of Australian environment that implied that the bush life required perseverance and endurance. He created an image of a tough terrain, where both men and women had to strive for survival. In the Water Them Geraniums, Lawson paints a women as a person vulnerable and dependent being. In particular Mrs. Spicer’s character illustrates that a woman is prone to the bush life and is often destroyed by frontier hardship. Even though women are accommodated in Lawson’s stories, they are portrayed as weak beings, who cannot survive on their own and hence require men to take charge (Lawson 722). In other words, the bush life for women was only conquered in mate ship. As illustrated by Mrs. Spicer’s role, women play a central role in procreation and the childrearing. For instance, Mrs. Spicer desires to have the best to her children, despite living in abject poverty.

Joe also sees Mrs. Spicer laboring in open fields but still maintains a sense of humor. This suggests that women are victims of environment and must adapt to live in the bush. Following the death of Mrs. Spicer, Mary is left to determine her own future. By doing so, Lawson creates an image that women are victims of circumstances and that the society is not responsible for their suffering (Heseltine 348). Evidently, Lawson’s attitude towards feminism is based on patriarchy institutions, where women are mainly responsible for household roles and childrearing. He also suggests that it is the bush life that subjects women to suffering, as opposed to men or masculinity.

On the other hand, Baynton’s stories were quite the opposite of Lawson’s. In the midst of a gender biased-society, Baynton sort to dismantle stereotypes of feminism by writing a series of stories from a bush woman perspective (Baynton). During this period, women were generally excluded from mate ship in the Australian culture. In one of her stories, Squeaker’s Mate, an unnamed woman, known as “the mate” is a strong, hard-working and an independent woman. Baynton describes the gloomy impacts on the expected patriarchy institution principles such as household tasks and the stereotypes of being a good wife, especially when the main character is paralyzed and cannot perform any tasks (Baynton 17). Throughout the story, Baynton struggles to expose gender based discrimination, where the society excludes a woman.

In another story, The Chosen Vessel, Baynton further continues to paint a picture of a string woman free from the social stereotypes in the Australian society. The story revolves around a woman whose situation remains constant despite her husband having a typical profession. The woman lives alone with her child when the husband foes to work. The story shows that she is not satisfied with her prevailing situation. Throughout the story, Baynton seeks to illustrate an oppressed female gender, in the midst of a male dominated society. Baynton tells of a woman who has been defeated by the community (Krimmer et al. 15). She loathes being left alone, and vulnerable in the hands of men as opposed to the nature. The woman is forced to adapt to various situations not just for her own survival but also for that of her husband. She describes a tyrant figure, which is always mean to her. In the story, Baynton describes three different perspectives which threatens her wellbeing.

In another story, A Dreamer, a young pregnant woman is used to illustrate how the society has neglected the girl child. Despite her being pregnant, the woman in this story goes to visit her mother but finds no one to receive her at the station and is forced to walk through the dark bush. She is portrayed as an armless warrior who withstands the threats of the bush. She even losses her track and almost drowns in a flooded river on her way home (Spender). The story describes a society that has forgotten the value of looking after women, leaving them to face numerous dangers in the bush. The story describes the struggle of a women in a men centered society. The bushes symbolizes the dangers placed by men and other stereotypes.

Lawson’s perspective of a woman is completely different from that of Baynton. Whereas Lawson believes that the bush is no place for a woman, Baynton seeks to dismantle the belief by creating strong and independent female characters (Lawson 240). She illustrates how the woman has been neglected by the society. Another difference between the two authors is the source of hostility facing the women. Lawson believes that the nature is the primary threat towards the females. He believes that the women must persevere the dangers and challenges experienced in the bush. On the other hand, Baynton believes that men and a male-centered society is the main threat towards the female. She explores how women suffer in the hands of men in their lives as they are expected to conform to social stereotypes based on patriarchy institutions. However, the role of childrearing is observed as the primary stereotype used by Lawson and Baynton to develop their perspectives of a bush-woman.

Works Cited

Bail, Murray. The Drover’s Wife And Other Stories. London: Faber and Faber,
1986. Print.

Barrett, Susan. «No Place for a Woman? Barbara Baynton’s Bush StudiesJournal of the Short Story in English 40 (Spring 2003): 85-96. Rpt. In Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Vol. 211. Detroit: Gale, 2009. Literature Resource Center. Web. 6 May 2012.

Baynton, Barbara. Bush Studies. Barbara Baynton:Portable Australian Authors . ed., Sally Krimmer, and Alan Lawson, ed., St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1980.

Baynton, Barbara. “Squeaker’s Mate.” Bush Studies. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2009. 13-28.

Elder, Catriona. Being Australian: Narratives of National Identity. Crows Nest,
N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2007. Print.

Heseltine, Harry. “Saint Henry–our apostle of mateship.” Henry Lawson criticism: 1894-1971. RODERICK, Colin (ed.). Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1972. 342-349.

Krimmer, Sally; Lawson, Alan. Introduction. In: Baynton, Barbara. Barbara Baynton: Portable Australian Authors Series. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1980. Web. August, 2017. < http://www.enotes.com/topics/barbara-baynton> 12-18.

Lawson, Henry. “The Drover’s Wife.” A camp-ire yarn: Complete works 1885-1900. Sydney: Lansdowne Press,1984. 238-243.

Lawson, Henry. “Water Them Geraniums,” op. cit,. p. 722

Lee, Christopher. (2002). An Uncultured Rhymer and His Cultural Critics: Henry Lawson, Class Politics and Colonial Literature. Victorian Poetry. Spring. 40. 1 2002 p. 87-104.

Moore, T. Social patterns in Australian literature. 1st pub. Berkeley: California
UP, 1971. Print.

Spender, Dale. “Introduction”. Australian Women’s Writing. Ringwood: Penguin, 1988. xiii-xxiii.