'Riverina rasped the scales from my eyes’: Riverina politics in Furphy’s <em>Such is Life</em>


  • Susan Lever The University of Sydney


Joseph Furphy, colonial fiction, squatters, colonial politics


Joseph Furphy admitted that his politics changed radically after ‘the usages of Riverina rasped the scales from my eyes’. This article argues that the political importance of Such is Life is its observation of the conditions in the Riverina that led to Furphy’s political shift; it is based on practical experience rather than the more theoretical politics of Rigby’s Romance. The novel is set in the years before the 1884 Land Act divided Riverina squatting runs in half, and a series of droughts and depressions ended the Golden Age of Squatting. The main political issue in Such is Life—the alienation of the land by a privileged few—reflects the concerns of European migrants who saw land as the source of individual wealth and equality but Furphy’s treatment of the various squatters in the novel, and his sympathy for some of them, suggests that their individual morality can do little to change an unjust system. The paper argues that Such is Life marks a political transition not only for Furphy, but for Australian democrats, from the liberal belief that small landholdings under individual ownership would be the source of justice to a more socialist commitment to communal action.

Author Biography

Susan Lever, The University of Sydney

Susan Lever is an Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney. Her books include Real Relations: The Feminist Politics of Form in Australian Fiction (ASAL/Halstead, 2000) and David Foster: The Satirist of Australia (Cambria Press, 2008).