‘The Chosen Vessel’ by Barbara Baynton

I read some of Baynton’s stories at university and was struck by how modern and contemporary her voice was, despite the fact that she was a woman writing in the extremely masculine environment of Federation-era Australia. The whole collection is worth reading, but the last story, ‘The Chosen Vessel,’ was one I read in bed several years ago, and found so troubling I couldn’t sleep afterwards. It is a story about a woman and her baby, alone in a shack in the middle of the bush, and a man who is set on hunting and hurting her. It is a masterclass in high third person and change of perspective, and it is also one of the best stories I’ve read about women on their own.

First published in The Bulletin on 12 December, 1896, subsequently published in the 1902 collection, Bush Studies. The collection is available to read in full on Project Gutenberg, here

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