'The history of White Australia is only about 200 years old while the history of Aboriginal Australians has run for more than forty thousand years. One Australian historian remarked that the white Australian people were not sure of what they were until as recently as the 1950s so lacked confidence in themselves as Australians. He remarked that this was supported by the fact that white people did not have their own legends or myths. The Aboriginal people already had their own legends and myths when the English people came to live in Australia. Australian historians strongly felt that white Australians needed to have their own legends in order to be sure of what they were. Legends could give them reasons why they live there and therefore they could have a meaningful bond with the Australian land.
Russel Ward wrote in his The Australian Legend in 1958 that the novels written by Henry Lawson and Joseph Furphy in the 1880s and 1890s successfully portrayed the real traits of Australia, since they dealt with life in the Australian bush. Ward held that the Australian bush had features not found in the English environment. It is true that the works of Lawson and Furphy about the bush life attracted many Australian readers because they show genuine Australian colonial life. It is said that their works established a tradition of Australian literature called social realism.
Although the works written by Lawson and Furphy were concerned with bush life, they reflected only white male characters and no female characters nor Aborigines. Also they dealt with day-to-day life in the bush but never tried to render the deeper levels of life.
In this paper, I intend to discover a new legend of Australia through the work of Christina Stead's Seven Poor Men of Sydney in support of the historians who claimed that Lawson and Furphy did not fully represent the Australian legends. It is commonly acknowledged that no novels before Seven Poor Men of Sydney rendered spiritual or psychological life, and this is the very first novel that escapes the Australian tradition of social realism.
This novel is about the people of Sydney and portrays the harsh lives they endured during the economic recession of the 1920s. Employing modern techniques, Stead depicts Australians' experiences of this period and also goes deep into the characters' inner life in their search for what they are. Stead successfully portrayed Australians' struggle for identity in severing the cultural bond with their mother country. I show this through the central characters of Michael and Catherine Baguenault and also show that their struggle to find their places in Australia becomes a legend for Australians represented in the character of Joseph Baguenault, the only survivor in the novel.' (Source: Doshisha Daigaku Eigo Eibungaku kenkyu)