The Verandah : A Short Story Collection

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


School of Language and Literature


Faculty of Education & Arts

First Advisor

Dr Richard Rossiter


This thesis comprises a collection of five short stories and a critical essay. Each story focuses on an aspect of Westem Australia's colonial penal system between the years of 1853 and 1871 and foregrounds those who are conventionally marginalised or silenced in narratives of this time: the convict, the prison warder and the prison warder's wife. Using symbols of contested spaces, the stories highlight the nature of imprisonment as it applies to each of the characters. 'The Confession' deals with themes of sexual jealousy, violence and forgiveness. Depicting a condemned murderer and a jaded prison warder, it attempts to show the potential for cruelty that lies beneath the surface of human beings, thus blurring the lines of demarcation between prisoner and free man. In 'Sunday Best', a prison warder's wife must fight for space in the cramped Fremantle terrace cottage she and her husband share with another couple. The story foregrounds aspects of identity, and how old ideas of the self are useless and ultimately dismantled in the new culture. 'Punishment' describes a flogging and its effect on both convict and prison warder. By using both points of view the story resists the idea of a centralist narrative and humanises that which is conventionally positioned as 'Other': the convict. 'The Verandah' shows the construction of a verandah on a warder's cottage in York. It highlights the possibility of reinvention, the formation of new social structures and the collapse of class boundaries in the new colony. 'Where Two Rivers Meet' tells the story of a woman rescuing her daughter from a river. It explores ideas of where 'home' is and the importance of familial connections. Using the motif of a woman merging with the landscape it suggests new possibilities for belonging. IV The c1itical essay focuses on how man-made structures such as houses, verandahs and prisons work in fiction and in the material world to reinforce an accepted social order. It also demonstrates how such structures can be read as metaphors for containment and entrapment, and how writers make use of these structures to dismantle colonial notions of identity. The essay examines three short stories: 'Cousin Lucy's Story' by Ellen Liston, written circa 1860, 'The Ghost of Wanganilla: Founded on Fact' by Ellen Augusta Chads (1891) and 'Conversation in a Pantry' by Henry Handel Richardson (1934), and makes some connections with my stories 'Sunday Best', 'The Verandah' and 'Punishment'.

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