chapter  2
44 Pages

Matilda’s Last Dance: Death and Historical Fiction

Since Philippe Ariès’s Western Attitudes to Death, the cultural meanings derived from responses to death are inclined to be situated within the broader frame of the Western world rather than at a nation-specifi c site. As a result-and because death is universal-academic discussion of the topic is often over-generalised (Charmaz, Howarth, and Kellehear). The concern of this chapter is therefore with more localised (that is, national) experiences of, and ideas about, mortality. Using Australia as my model, I am going to focus specifi cally on some of the historical fi ctions produced for adolescents in this country. I am working from the notion that cultural myths have, over time, developed around particular experiences of death, and that these myths serve to “explain, eulogize, and promote admiration and acceptance of [the nation’s] struggle with life and death” (Fitzpatrick 27).