What are themes of Fringe of Leaves by Patrick White, and what is the characterization?

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One of the themes in this chilling life story intertwined with a shipwreck is the meaning of life. Another theme is the quest for general humanity within individual frailty. Another theme is the question of the proprietary right to all happinesses. This theme is raised with the question of whether Austin had the right to engage Ellen in marriage. The story stands on the element of plot. Characterizations are weak and depend upon artificial "tag" elements that distinguish them without drawing out any human verisimilitude.

'Oh no, people can be frightful!' Miss Scrimshaw asserted, rather flat, but surprisingly loud.

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