Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Bush. Australian term for wilderness area that also has connotations that make the bush a fearful place on one hand and a spiritual place on the other. As the novel opens, the central character, Stan Parker, walks into the virgin bushland awed by the “simplicity of true grandeur” where the silence was “immense.” From the novel’s beginning, then, the bush assumes religious dimensions comparable to a cathedral. It continues to be treated in this way throughout the work, and at its end, Stan’s grandson undergoes a similar revelation as he walks through the bush.

A crucial passage of The Tree of Man describes a powerful storm that strikes the area and the flood that follows. Such unpredictable weather characterizes Australia, where bush regions suffer drought for years then heavy rains flood the parched earth. The raging water heightens the drab landscape and figures as a pivotal experience in Parker’s quest for understanding. Like so many elements in the novel, the deluge carries religious significance and brings to mind the biblical flood.

Parker farm

Parker farm. Farm that Stan and his wife, Amy, build for half a century. It begins with Stan’s clearing of a space in the bush and building a simple hut. Soon, he marries Amy, with whom he has two children. Over the years, their farm expands as more of the scrub and trees are cleared away. The crude hut evolves into a rambling...

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The Tree of Man Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Bliss, Carolyn. “The Tree of Man.” In Patrick White’s Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986. Provides a clear analysis of the novel. Places this early novel within the White canon, which is seen as concerned with “the paradox of fortunate failure.”

Colmer, John. Patrick White. New York: Methuen, 1984. Examines the continuity of vision in White’s fiction. Discusses and places The Tree of Man within that context as an important early work.

Hope, A. D. “The Bunyip Stages a Comeback—The Tree of Man.” In Critical Essays on Patrick White. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990. A noted review of the novel, written in 1956 by a leading Australian poet. Praises the way White represents “a sense of the mystery of all living,” but criticizes his prose style, calling it “pretentious and illiterate verbal sludge.”

Kramer, Leonie. “The Tree of Man: An Essay in Skepticism.” In Critical Essays on Patrick White, edited by Peter Wolfe. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990. Traces Stan Parker’s “journey towards enlightenment” by analyzing the formal structure of the novel. Argues that Stan’s supposed spiritual illumination has been overestimated by critics, and sees the novel instead as expressing a skeptical “attitude towards metaphysical speculation.”

Weigel, John A. Patrick White. Boston: Twayne, 1983. A comprehensive introduction to all aspects of White’s work and life, including a well-defined discussion of The Tree of Man. An excellent starting point for a study of White’s fiction.