Novel Essay

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Teachers’ notes Written by Robyn Sheahan-Bright Stony Heart Country David Metzenthen Aaron Knott is the enemy and Rocky Rises is the battleground. His dad is a city consultant employed by the ‘bosses’ to sack the workers, and his son has seen it all before. So if Aaron’s got the power, how come he’s copping all the agro? How come he’s the one who feels what the locals are suffering most? Things are getting ‘complicated’, like Bernie says, and Aaron isn’t sure whose side he’s on any more. Themes ‘No profit, Aaron,’ the old man had said on the way down in the Saab, ‘no jobs.’ ‘ No jobs,’ Aaron had fired back, ‘no profit.’(p 23) This is a novel about conflict – between workers and bosses; country and city; poor and rich; powerful and those lacking in power; commerce and culture. The city/country dichotomy is one of the crucial issues confronted in this novel, and in the Australian quest for selfhood and identity. Popular ‘mythology’ tells us that we are a rural society; demographics show that this is not so. Power, it is argued by isolated and poor country inhabitants, is often vested in the city elites who create a sense of grievance and angst which manifests itself in popular consciousness as a pervasive sense of alienation. The book, the blurb reads, ‘has been written to explore – and perhaps expose – the mounting pressures and tensions in individuals and families in contemporary Australia’. This sense of difference has manifested itself in many recent political arguments; unemployment and the destruction of country towns and their employment prospects; the closing of rural banking facilities; the rise of ‘Hansonism’; the defeat of the referendum to decide whether Australia should become a republic. The author makes the comment that: ‘Stony Heart Country began as a story entitled Bernie’s Big Backyard. The first title indicated that the

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