Mateship and the Female Body in Barbara Baynton's “Squeaker's Mate”

Deborah Scheidt

Abstract


“Mateship”, or companionship and loyalty in adverse situations, was a common theme for late 19th century Australian short stories. Women are excluded from the practice of mateship and are not usually the protagonists of these narratives, being either kept in the background as mothers and housewives, or not present at all in the plots.  Going against these stereotypes, in Barbara Baynton’s story “Squeaker’s Mate”, the “mate” is an independent, strong and hard-working woman. Baynton explores the gloomy consequences of this reversal of expected gender roles, especially after an accident leaves the protagonist paralysed and no longer in control of her body. What occurs in “Squeaker’s Mate” is a kind of “anti-mateship”, where irony serves as a device to expose gender relations and the exclusion of women from what is traditionally considered heroic and historical. In “Squeaker’s Mate”, Baynton questioned the adoption of “mateship” as an Australian value more than half a century before that discussion started to draw formal critical attention. 


Keywords


Barbara Baynton; “Squeaker’s Mate”; Female Body; Mateship

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5007/2175-8026.2015v68n2p67

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