My Brilliant Career was written by Stella Franklin (1879-1954) when she was just nineteen years old. The novel struggled to find an Australian publisher, but was published in London and Edinburgh in 1901 after receiving an endorsement from Henry Lawson. Although Franklin wrote under the pseudonym 'Miles Franklin', Lawson’s preface makes it clear that Franklin is, as Lawson puts it 'a girl.'
The novel relates the story of Sybylla Melvyn, a strong-willed young woman of the 1890s growing up in the Goulburn area of New South Wales and longing to be a writer.
Based on the book by Miles Franklin, this feature film tells the story of an Australian country girl who, at the end of the nineteenth century, wants to make her own way in the outside world.
Rejecting an offer of marriage from a wealthy suitor (who is also her childhood friend), she instead finds herself obligated to work off her father's debt to a neighbouring family, for whom she works as governess and housekeeper. Returning home, she again rejects her suitor's proposal, this time in favour of writing a novel based on her experiences.
Unit Suitable For
AC: Year 12 (Literature Unit 3)
adaptation of novel to film, Australia, Australian country life, film study, gender, love, narrative voice, setting, social reading, structure, women
Critical and creative thinking, Information and communication technology, Intercultural understanding
'My Brilliant Career, published in 1901, is the first and also the most influential work of Australian writer Miles Franklin (1879—1954). It depicts a “new woman image” which represents an ambitious, imaginative, rebellious bush girl and genuinely reflects the late 19th century Australia. She rebels and fights but fails to get out of the colonial women’s miserable life without any patriarchal persecution. She is reproached and excluded by public. She is left lonely and helpless and is nearly on her breakdown. She is a brave warrior of feminism, but still another tragic character of patriarchy.'
When Miles Franklin's My Brilliant Career was published in 1901, it was acclaimed (incorrectly) as "the very first Australian novel to be published" (Stephens 2). This was the first of many impassioned responses to the novel over the succeeding hundred or so years. My Brilliant Career is a troubling and contradictory work, especially in relation to gender. It is the fictional autobiography of a teenage girl in rural Australia as she travels between her family's poverty-stricken home and the luxurious surroundings of her grand-mother's farming property, fields proposals from suitors, and tries to work out what to do with her life. Its protagonist, Sybylla Melvyn, finally rejects marriage in the hope of an independent career.' (Introduction)