An Aussie Story?
PETER CAREY'S NOVELS can be characterized by their “hybridity of form.” They combine “experiments in metafiction,” postmodernism understood as “the collapse of grand historical narratives” and revisionary historical writing,1 as in his Booker Prize-winning novel Oscar and Lucinda, set in nineteenth-century England and Australia. In Jack Maggs, a novel set in early-nineteenth-century London, Carey blends the genres of historical novel, fictional biography and metafiction with an intensively marked intertextuality, borrowing characters and plot elements from Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. This latter novel concentrates on a period of three weeks, beginning 15 April 1837, at 6 o'clock precisely. At this time, Jack Maggs, the counterpart of Dickens's convict Magwitch, illegally arrives in London in order to meet his adoptive son, Henry Phipps (Dickens's Pip), who, with Maggs's money, has been educated to become a Victorian gentleman. Phipps, however, tries to evade his benefactor by all possible means. This essay explores Carey's debt to Dickens, his re-creation of historical London, and his metafictional blending of narratives. In addition, it sounds out the question of whether Carey's narrative transforms this material from an imperial into an Aussie story.
1 Bruce Woodcock, Peter Carey (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1996): 17.