Because Patrick White develops a distinctive, individual voice for each brother, both emerge as memorable characters, although Arthur Brown is an especially compelling creation. The style of the two middle sections varies according to which brother narrates: Arthur’s chapters are more impressionistic and poetic, while Waldo’s are more straightforward and prosaic. Whereas the prevailing tone of Waldo’s version is one of anger and resentment, Arthur’s story is warm and generous. Waldo presents dry recollections because he filters everything through his intellect: Arthur’s memories, by contrast, are visceral as well as emotional and imaginative. Both styles are realistic in method in the sense that the brothers, their dogs, and their house are evoked in all of their shabby, unlovely detail, but the narrative also relies heavily on symbols such as the mandala as well as on the allegorical implications of twins.
Arthur, the more appealing brother, is a modern version of the noble primitive or God’s fool. Patrick White invokes the stereotype in order to satirize provincial Australian values; because Arthur is good, humble, and incapable of hypocrisy, he stands out as eccentric, even inferior. Except for Dulcie and Mrs. Poulter, both atypical Australian women, the suburban populace (represented by the appropriately named Mrs. Dun) regards Arthur with distaste and fear. Suburbia’s values are entirely materialistic and do not permit acceptance of any...
(The entire section is 467 words.)