I for One . . . Themes
by Norris Frank Davey

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Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

I for One is in some degree reminiscent of classic stories such as Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus and, from the feminist perspective, the poetry of Sylvia Plath. It is a story of self-discovery in the manner of Sophocles’ play, depicting the discomfort, horror, relief, and joy of discovering one’s place in the cosmos. The novel depicts a dogged pursuit of truth. It finds the key to identity not in one’s innocence but in one’s honesty.

Sargeson’s novel is the portrait of a young woman smothered under the legacy left at her father’s death. So much remained to be learned of him, so much to be revealed of his life. In much of her poetry Sylvia Plath complains that her overbearing father died prematurely, before she had a proper opportunity to confront him as an adult and do away with misconceptions and undue influences. Just as much of Plath’s poetry is addressed to her father, so most of Katherine’s diary is part of a process of toppling her own Colossus, of laying to rest the great myths enshrined at her father’s death.