You can learn the meaning and origin of the song here.
This was an interesting book. I read it on the recommendation of an Australian blogger I follow because I have not read much, if any, Australian literature. (You can visit Carol's blog, Journey and Destination "down under" or click on the link here.)
Therefore, I do not know whether Franklin's book reflects Australian culture or just or her own thoughts and ideas.
Amazingly, she wrote this while a teenager. The writing is wonderful. Her descriptions of farm life and the Australian countryside are fantastic! But then again, that might explain the immaturity of the protagonist.
The story takes place in the 1890s and is about a young girl, Sybylla, who is sixteen and hates her life. Well, don't all sixteen year old girls.
But Sybylla is slightly different. She hates living on a farm, hates the work, hates the people she's surrounded with. She's a "thinker" and they're not. Her mother is beautiful, but thinks the highest ideal for a woman is to marry and have children. This is anathema to Sybylla who has dreams of a brilliant career. I'm not sure in what, writing or music I suppose.
Her family's farm goes under and Sybylla shakes her fist at her father and at God and all of life. Her mother talks of sending her out to work somewhere. But then her grandmother invites her to come live with her. She meets her aunt Helen who persuades her she is not as ugly as she believes herself to be.
Her life is full of tea parties, dinners, and flirtatious young men. To most of them Sybylla is rude if not out right odious. Her Grandmother and Aunt Helen find her behavior shocking but her Uncle Jay Jay thinks its hilarious.
There is one man, Harold Beecham, who stands up to her challenge, although why he bothers with her I don't know, because she acts like a perfect imp to him. And I'll stop right there so as not to give away anything.
I really did not understand this novel. Sybylla is a nasty brat with no redeeming character as far as I can see.
The story is supposed to have a wonderful feminist message. Well, if hating men and believing the only way a woman can be strong and independent is to never get married or have a family, and thinking you're smarter than everyone else, it does.
But I wonder where that thinking comes from. I am strong and independent and the greatest joy I receive in my life is my family. I wouldn't give my husband or son up for anything.
In my view, strong and independent by Sybylla's terms means to be self-absorbed and rude.
I'd be interested in other people's opinions because it is possible I'm missing something.
On a side note, Miles Franklin was so upset to realize that readers thought she was basing her story on her real life that she removed the book and did not allow its publication until after her death.
Unfortunately for her, she got to expose her immature teenage years to the world while the rest of us get to blissfully forget about them.
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