Closure, Completion and Memory in Harland's Half Acre: Phil's Story

Carolyn Masel


Most of the excellent critical work on this novel deals with the topic that Malouf has identified as its central issue. Frank Harland’s original plan is to buy back his family’s land, lost through gambling and general carelessness, using the proceeds of the sale of his paintings. His thinking has to be radically altered after the death of his nephew and heir. Possession, he comes to realise, is an imaginative thing rather than a physical thing. This essay does not repeat or summarise previous critical contributions, which trace conceptions of non-Indigenous ownership all the way from terra nullius to the ethical ambitions of whiteness studies. Instead, focusing solely on Phil’s story, it deals with the construction and function of memory in the work and on the building of an emotional climax close to its end. It includes discussion of characters’ particular memories, the creation of verbal memories for the reader, and the use of memory to intensify emotion at strategic points of the novel, especially the climax.


David Malouf; closure; emotion; memory; strategy

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