Kangaroos and predators in recent Australian fiction: A post-pastoral reading
Wayne State University Press
When dusk falls in regional Australia, it is common to see mobs of kangaroos ranging in paddocks and on golf courses. They lounge about in family groups in the shade of remnant eucalyptus trees and share the pasture of bovines. They seem peaceful and idyllic, with their wide, dark eyes, cute joeys, and unique gait, and they appear to have close family bonds. They are the most visible and commonplace of Australia’s unique animals. Despite all the charm of these awe-inspiring creatures and their status as a national icon, Australian writers perpetually kill them off. Recent Australian fiction has featured native animals that gain substantial narrative agency. Stephen Daisley’s Coming Rain (2015) and Louis Nowra’s Into That Forest (2012) undertake extended narratives from the perspective of native animals. The dingo and the thylacine, respectively, are given voice in fiction by these works. Domestic, nonnative animals in Australia have also received serious treatment recently by authors such as Eva Hornung and Michelle de Kretser. But Australian stories are less sympathetic toward the kangaroo. One appears struggling in a rabbit trap, doomed and dying in Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things (2015), Tim Winton has one killed on the road, dissected and fed to dogs in Breath (2008). There is an inventory of such examples. Serious treatment of the extinct thylacine abounds, but the kangaroo is often represented as roadkill and dog food. The expendable nature of the kangaroo is a widely held view in Australia, so it is little wonder that this attitude is articulated in our fiction; but it is a bitter irony that the creature that defines us to the rest of the world is perpetually under siege, in life and in literature...