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The Real Australian Legend in Barbara Baynton's The Chosen Vessel

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The Real Australian Legend in Barbara Baynton's The Chosen Vessel The last decade of the nineteenth century produced some of the most famous works of Australian literature - mostly all by men. Writers such as Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson defined our culture and somehow managed to either portray women as simple objects or just left them out completely. The Australian legend, as it was formed in the literary works written by the men of this time, depicts a strong, masculine bushman with no fear of adventure and a good sense of humour. However, some of the female writers of the 1890's painted a very different picture. By including women in their work as more than just objects, shows how women themselves viewed the Australian legend - and it generally was not in a positive light. Although a lot of women's writing from this time had and has been rejected as important Australian literature, "writing by women in the period needs to be recovered as it has a lot to tell us about the social and cultural significance of women in the emerging Australian society and it is often at odds with the work of male contemporaries." ...read more.


(Lee, slide 14), but the theme of Baynton's story (that is, Australian society's repudiation of women at the time) is conveyed nevertheless by the very people who endeavoured to change it - the men of this country. On it's own, the original unedited story presents a male view of women from the time that isn't deliberately presented in men's literature from the same period. Baynton shows that women were viewed as objects - stupid, senseless beings whose only purpose was to serve a man - an object to be ignored until needed. In the first paragraph, the woman is making an unsuccessful attempt at chasing a cow. This leads her to remember another time when this occurred and her husband was present. The husband was displeased with her inability at the task at hand - ...the woman's husband was angry, and called her - the noun was cur. It was he who forced her to run and meet the advancing cow, brandishing a stick, and uttering threatening words till the enemy turned and ran. (Baynton, 291) Rather than being mad at the cow for disobeying it's owner, her husband becomes angry with and insults his own wife. ...read more.


Baynton's woman also fears her place in said society. As her home is being invaded by the criminal swagman (the representation of an Australian men's relation to women), she does not utter a word of protest for fear of being attacked: "..the sound of her voice would wake baby, and she dreaded that as though it were the only danger that threatened her." (293). The woman remains silent until finally she flees from the house in an attempt to escape her attacker. It is at this point, when she does scream for help, that she meets her demise at the hands of the man. It seems that The Chosen Vessel is a better presentation of Australian culture than the ideal of the Australian legend presents it in most other works from the time. Writers such as Henry Lawson barely acknowledge the danger for women and children in the bush. (Marsh, screen 1). Baynton's story includes the woman as a person and not as an object or simple background character. Baynton does not accept what now appears to be the false representation of the legend, "instead she challenged the nationalist myth of the pure, unsullied bush" (Schaffer, 156) and this is why hers and other women's works from this time are just as valid to be considered good Australian literature as any idealistic, nationalist man's. ...read more.

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