Title: The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965

Author: Joan Stevens

Publication details: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 1966

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Sylvia Johnston

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965

Chapter 2 (pp. 22-34)

Chapter 2 (pp. 22-34)

1. In The Deepening Stream, 1940, M. H. Holcroft writes, "The empty spaces lead us straight towards the unknown ..." Do you think that George Chamier's philosophical boundary rider Dick was a likely or typical figure in the 1890s? Is there any evidence today that such back-country isolation produces the preoccupation with "the unknown" of which Holcroft speaks?

2. Writing in the Journal of the Polynesian Society in September 1958, W. H. Pearson comments on attitudes to the Maori in some page 151 of our Pakeha fiction. "Often the subject is the love of a white man for a Maori maiden, sometimes a 'princess'," he says, "but never of a white woman for a Maori man. That would be getting too close to the bone, because these stories tended to move from real possibilities into an idyllic world of the imagination."

Does this seem to be true of the Maori novels so far discussed? Is it true of later ones which you know? Is the choice of a white hero and Maori heroine dictated by the author's deliberate "idyllic" imagination as Pearson suggests, or perhaps, at any rate in the early days, by the realities of the social situation?

Do any of the Maori novels discussed in this chapter satisfy you as having a serious artistic purpose?

3. Do you think that the women writers' preoccupation with the problems of the educated woman in marriage did reflect an actual New Zealand situation? Is there any evidence of the persistence of the topic in current writing by and for women?