Patrick White's "A Fringe of Leaves".

Essay by pagerHigh School, 12th gradeB-, July 2003

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Social interactions and relationships are often used in novels to establish and develop thematic concerns within the text. Within A Fringe of Leaves, Patrick White constructs characters and their relationships to expose the constraints of social expectations and simultaneously illustrate the metaphysical journey to self-realisation that the protagonist, Ellen undergoes. It is through Ellen's complex and often confusing relationships with other characters that her journey may be traced and the extent of change at each level may be realised. The text remains, throughout such a journey, concerned with the contrast between appearances and reality, revealed though all levels of interaction, but poignantly exemplified in the upper class. Such contrasts are juxtaposed to the relatively natural, however none the less complex, relationships appearing deep within the Australian bush. Social relationships are vital in establishing themes, however Ellen's inner struggle remains the focus of the novel. Relationships are therefor presented as complex and confusing in order to shape a deeper understanding of both the tribulations and personal conflicts Ellen must face and the complex product of her journey.

Ellen Gluyas is of working class origins and it is only through her relationship with Austin that she comes to be the 'Mrs. Roxburg' of class and social stature. This transcending of class, although provides her with stoic and expedience, valuable in her journey, is the cause of much confusion for Ellen and she is constantly reassessing her situations in able to assume her appropriate role. White clearly expresses that Ellen and Austin's marriage is for reasons other then romantic love. Austin's selection of Ellen as his wife enables him to fulfill his Pygmalion fantasies, however the prospect of marrying would not have come about at all without the instruction of his mother. The marriage may thus be seen as, as equally...