Frank O’Connor has suggested in The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story (1963) that the short story flourishes best in an incompletely developed culture such as a regional culture. Existing outside the centers of society confers the status of outsider, which, O’Connor argues, characterizes modern short fiction. It is perhaps this reason that explains, more than any other, the fact that the short story has been claimed at various times as the paradigmatic prose form for both Australia and New Zealand. The sense of isolation and distance from the centers of culture that mark the development of the literature of both countries is served by the brevity and uncertainty inherent in the short-story form. In addition, particularly during the early period of colonization, writers have faced the difficulty of publishing longer works and have turned instead to the periodical as a means of publishing and distributing their writing.
The development of the short story in Australia and New Zealand has been motivated by a desire to distinguish the literature from that of Europe. This tendency to react against foreign forms is particularly noticeable in the work of Henry Lawson and Frank Sargeson. However, it would be a mistake to read the cultures and literatures of Australia and New Zealand as interchangeable or even as reflective of each other. While there has been some cross- fertilization, the development of the literatures of each country has been distinct and separate. Furthermore, a study that identifies the literatures closely with each other tends to obscure the influences of other cultures—European and American—which come into play in the development of a national literature.