Patrick White's "A Fringe of Leaves".

2126 Words Aug 1st, 2003 9 Pages
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 …show more content…
Garnet is expected to uphold social ideals by setting moral examples for those 'lesser' than him, yet he, in every respect, defies the concept of 'Christian morality' through his advantageous and corrupt nature. White's depiction of Garnet's relationship with the servant girl Holly reveals how a man of his position is able to manipulate the lives of those around him, with little concern for the consequences. The character of Holly is marginalised within the text however this may be read as furthering White's ironic portrayal of the upper class, as the minimal description of the girl's fate is representative of just how little Garnet's actions effect his life.

Although the portrayal of Holly also criticises dominant ideologies on gender, the extent of double standards towards male and female sexuality is fully exposed in the construction of the relationship between Ellen and Garnet. Their relationship is strongly contrasted to the sterile and repressive nature of Ellen and Austin's relationship. Within her marriage Ellen is unable to explore her sexuality as when she 'had...once responded with a natural ardour...discovered on her husband's face an expression of having tasted something bitter'. Her relationship with Garnet thus proves to be complex in its meaning. It first represents Ellen and Garnet as parallel characters in their sensualist desires that must be censured in light of social morality. Whilst simultaneously

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