The Early Works: Anatomy of Failure

  • Carolyn Bliss
Part of the Studies in 20th Century Literature book series (STCL)


In White’s early fiction, the pattern whereby failure leads to an unlooked-for and very different kind of success is present, but muted or subsidiary to other concerns. The theme is explored and anatomized, but does not take on the importance later accorded it. As his early work reveals the author experimenting in matters of style and technique, it also chronicles his gradual approach to the philosophy of life which would inform his mature fiction. A central feature of this philosophy, the paradox of imperative failure, does not emerge in all its complexity until Voss, written some twenty years after the writer’s fiction first appeared in print. None the less, the protagonist’s experience of significant failure is a feature even of the earliest novel White published.


Life Sentence Dichotomous View Hard Lesson Powdered Brick Empty House 
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  1. 4.
    Barry Argyle, Patrick White ( New York: Barnes & Noble, 1967 ) p. 13.Google Scholar
  2. 16.
    Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake ( Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1947 ) pp. 212–13.Google Scholar

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© Carolyn Jane Bliss 1986

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  • Carolyn Bliss

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