[Truncated abstract] Traditionally associated with elements of the British literary canon such as William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the notions of innocence and experience are seldom encountered in Australian literature.
This thesis seeks to demonstrate how these notions of innocence and experience are presented in Robert Drewe’s and Tim Winton’s fiction. After an examination of innocence and experience as perceived in the literary, philosophical and religious spheres in the first chapter, the geographical and sociocultural background for this thesis is described in detail in the second chapter: this section presents a summary of aspects of Australia’s and Western Australia’s histories of particular relevance to a study of the two authors’ works.
The third chapter concentrates on Robert Drewe’s use of these two notions throughout his novels. The order of publication is eschewed in favour of a chronological axis designed around historically distinct subject matters. The author appears to prevent metaphysics from permeating his stories of men and women on a quest of their own, and he frequently juxtaposes points of view and narrative techniques in order to dig under the surface of unquestioned certainties.
The fourth chapter of this thesis is a study of Tim Winton’s multilayered portrait of Western Australia’s land and people, with a fall from innocence to experience explored through the author’s specific spiritual sensibility. In his books, he frequently depicts characters on a tortuous path towards self-knowledge and acceptance, itineraries often leading to spiritual fulfillment.