Miles Franklin has given her characters interesting names: While some—Aunt Helen, Harold Beecham, and Frank Hawden, for example—are typically Australian, others, such as Everard Grey, Lucy Bossier Melvyn, and Sybylla Penelope Melvyn, are atypical and suggest an effort to indicate superior social standing or aspirations. In particular, the protagonist’s names have classical associations: Sybylla suggests that she is an antipodean prophetess, while Penelope reminds one of Ulysses’ faithful wife who remained at her tasks for twenty years and rejected her many suitors. On the other hand, the McSwats’ name borders on the ludicrous and suggests that they spend their time swatting the flies that infest their filthy homestead, with its chickens and pigs that have ready access to the kitchen. Even the minor characters have names that follow this pattern: Blanche Derrick, the Melbourne beauty who “lived in a sea of unruffled self-consciousness and self-confidence”; Jane Haizlip, the servant girl who is certainly a persona of the author and an outspoken critic of the “dulness” of the Outback; and George Ledwood, Joe Archer, Mr. Goodchum, and Mr. Goodjay.
Each of these—more particularly the major characters—is characterized in pointed epithets or brief, penetrating phrases. Mrs. Melvyn is “a creature of circumstance”; Aunt Helen has “something beautifully sincere and real about her”; Everard Grey is “a veritable carpet knight”; Peter McSwat is “an utterly ignorant man with small ideas,” while his wife is “a great, fat, ignorant, pleasant-looking woman,...
(The entire section is 652 words.)