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Joan Makes History- Kate Grenville

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Kate Grenville's episodic novel Joan Makes History (1988) is also "good to think with" in term of national identity. Grenville deviates from exploring Amanda Lohrey's suggestion of a "suitable past" (1996). Instead of celebrating what Lohrey describes as "mindless nationalism" (1996, p 150), in the invented traditions of Australian society, national identity, political progression and territory, Grenville explores the key periods of Australian history through the first-person narration, presenting subjective perspectives on the cultural 'turning points' of the past century. The episodic structure of the story allows Grenville to fully explore the diverse cultural perspectives of these events, as thus communication the message of how Australia culture has greatly changed throughout history, and has been shaped by a sense of time and place. Grenville explores a British influence on conservative Australia through etiquette "a lady never shakes hands with her gloves on... frankly I panicked" (1988, p249) and the rights of women.

In Chapter 13, Grenville's characterisation is portrayed through Joan's repetition "I will make history", as it reveals her highly ambitious and determined nature. Joan yearns to make history "I was not born for this kind of small beer... I was born for more than this" and Grenville historically and religiously alludes to Joan of Arc "flat-chested on a prancing horse, speaking French as if born to it... leading men into battle behind me, and dying a glorious if dreadful fiery death." This psychologised construction of Joan shows the theme of feminism running through the novel, her desire to secede from "nothing but the laundry woman" to "me, Joan, a Member of Parliament"

However, while the contrast of the various episodes effectively demonstrates the change in Australian culture and reveals the "unsuitable" history which is not commemorated, the juxtaposition of the continuing story of Joan and Duncan against these episodes is essential in Joan's realisation of her purpose and the implying the message of the novel.

Chapter 13 sees the mood of the novel change, as Joan no longer feels "born to make history"(p106) but, as she metaphorically reveals in Chapter 16, "hidden like a seed buried in its furrow"(p181). Joan feels the strains of domesticity and the remoteness of her personal time and place impact upon her dreams as she figuratively becomes "a prisoner of the tadpole inside me". As Joan moves into the country with Duncan, she moves further away from her believed destiny, "World!... You could have been mine!" (p110). The remoteness of Joan's home continues to reflect her distant feelings towards Duncan, "nothing here but dust and monotonous sun" (p111). Jennifer Craik (1990), uses the house the "Queenslander" as a form of everyday material culture that affects the identity of its occupants. Craik identifies the home as the "key arena in which these [urban] politics are played out" (1990, p1). However, as Craik continues to assert that the home has a need to "facilitate the dynamics of domestic life" (1990, p15), the lack of Joan's domestic dynamics becomes apparent, "I was on my own now, every bond snapped." Joan's ironic attempt to make history by becoming a man, "I was Jack, a woman of destiny", was how she realized her true destiny- as a mother.

Craik's assertion that within the house, "everyday life appears to be innocent" is complimented by Williams, who asserts "culture is ordinary". In order to interpret one's social identity, we must start with a basic proposition so we can grow to fully immerse ourselves in the wide and diverse aspects of culture. The Queenslander acts as a metaphor for social culture, as the development of Joan's lonesome and idle social identity is reflective of her sole occupancy of the house while Duncan is away. This identity is "good to think with" in terms of national identity, as it highlights a sense of place in the remoteness of Joan, and also provides an unpleasant image of the bush in contrast to the popularized invented myth of the 'bushman'.

Furthermore, the floor plan of the home allows for the politics (or lack of) within the home to be both overtly and covertly demonstrated, just as Williams claims use of communication leads to displays of public and private aspects of culture. Craik highlights, "The construction of regional identity has involved specifically the relationship between the house and its occupants", which corresponds with the relationship of culture and society. The relationship is ever changing as social identity is ever changing, dependent

upon the consumption of the variables of material culture.

It is ironic when Joan doesn't make her 'desired'



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