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"A Great Day" is one of Sargeson's most admired stories.

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Introduction "A Great Day" is one of Sargeson's most admired stories. This short tale of an early morning fishing trip undertaken by two friends culminates in a shocking, and surprising, act of violence and betrayal. The story illustrates the spare, compressed nature of Sargeson's art (almost all his stories are very short), as well as his use of informal, colloquial language and working-class characters. In "A Great Day," Sargeson avoids any overt moralizing and leaves the story to speak for itself, inserting many subtle clues within the text to enable the reader to make sense of the final incident. Summary and Analysis "A Great Day" begins with two friends, Ken and Fred, getting up just before dawn and preparing for a fishing trip. Ken leaves his "bach" (a small, cabin-style house) and carries their dinghy down to the beach. ...read more.


Themes Envy Fred is envious of Ken, and it is this that fuels his undeclared hatred of his companion. Fred envies everything Ken has that he does not. This includes physical attributes. Ken, who wears only shorts and a shirt in the boat, is bigger and stronger than the scrawny Fred, who keeps his body covered. "I wish I had your body," Fred says as they are rowing. He refers to Ken's physique more than once, as in "a big hefty bloke like you" and "that big frame of yours." It is as if he is obsessed with Ken's physical superiority. In his conversation with Ken as they row out to the island, Fred manages to disguise his envy, and Ken appears not to be aware of it. When Fred points out that Ken is better off financially than he-Fred-is and that he has savings and does not have to pay rent, he speaks in an easy, conversational style that does not reveal what must be his true thoughts about the matter. ...read more.


sounds like nothing more than a harmless philosophical observation, but in fact it reeks with malice. Another apparently innocent remark comes when Fred throws the tiny fish back. "But don't you wish you could swim like that?" Critical Overview "A Great Day" has usually been admired by literary critics, who point out that a number of Sargeson stories, including "Sale Day" and "Old Man's Story," have similarly violent climaxes. David Norton, in "Two Views of Frank Sargeson's Short Stories," has categorized the story as "an elaborated fable without the moral supplied: it can be taken as demonstrating the weakness of strength and the dangers of underestimating the weak." According to Helen Shaw, also in "Two Views of Frank Sargeson's Short Stories," "A Great Day" shows "deep insight into repression. If something deeply desired is repressed and for too long trapped in the hideout of the Unconscious, it may escape." Shaw sees this theme of the repression of desires, with unfortunate or evil consequences, operating in a number of Sargeson's short stories. ...read more.

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