Title

Inheritance : A Short Story Collection

Date of Award

2002

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Richard Rossiter

Abstract

This thesis comprises a collection of five short stories and a critical essay. Each of the stories focuses on an aspect of inheritance, and various narrative strategies are employed, including fragmented construction, parallel stories and borrowed discourse. In 'Cradle of Shadows' the first-person narrative of a young woman about to have an abortion is interwoven with the text of a 1917 report of the acquittal of her great-grandmother on a charge of infanticide. The resulting narrative is a study in ambiguity: the uncertainties of 'right' and 'wrong', the weight of the past and how it resonates in the present, the impulse to judge and the impotent desire to make reparation. The anchor of 'Renovation' is a house in an old Perth suburb-a bearer of social and personal history. A series of vignettes about occupants at different periods during the twentieth century punctuate the musings of a prospective new buyer for the house, who can only speculate on the meaning of what she sees in the physical features of the building and its surrounds. 'Synapses' is a story of an absent mother. It focuses on genetic inheritance and the impact of gaps in the narrative of self that we create through a combination of memory and knowledge. This is contrasted with the identity others often seek to construct through, for example, medical history. 'Sarah's Ark' explores, in an irreverent way, the accumulation of material possessions that may eventually form an idiosyncratic legacy. It uses the biblical story 'Noah's Ark' as an allusive framework, and swings between the events of a surreal present and those in the past that have brought the characters to their precarious situation. In 'Live Forever' a terminally ill woman contemplates notions of immortality, generativity and remembrance. The artworks of colonial wildflower painter Margaret Forrest provide a way of exploring the links between art and illness, loss and value, what a community remembers and why. The focus of the critical essay is on the use, in fiction, of material from other sources and the notion of what constitutes an 'ethical discourse'. The essay makes reference to the stories in the collection-principally 'Cradle of Shadows' and 'Sarah's Ark'-to canvass legal issues such as copyright and defamation; the slippery concept of 'universal morality'; aspects of postmodern writing such as hybridity, decentring and borrowed discourse; and the nature of the writing process.

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