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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: March 2014

Brigid Magner: Alex Calder, The Settler’s Plot: How Stories Take Place in New Zealand, and Doreen D’Cruz and John C. Ross, The Lonely and the Alone: The Poetics of Isolation in New Zealand Fiction

from Reviews


It’s fair to say that the fi gure of the ‘man alone’ is a central trope in New Zealand literary studies. These two books consider the man alone theme, albeit in radically different ways. Doreen D’Cruz and John C. Ross propose that John Mulgan’s seminal novel Man Alone (1939) belongs to a subcategory of the ‘man alone’ topos, one based on the isolation of fugitives and escapees who cannot be assimilated into social networks (50). This is a fairly standard view compared with Alex Calder’s playful re-reading of the novel within the frame of the Western genre. Although Man Alone lacks the trappings of the Western genre, Calder argues, it is plotted along an identical trail, with multiple escapes from the city and from women who threaten the hero’s freedom (232). Within New Zealand studies, Calder observes, the cultural history of the 1930s is often viewed in terms of a narrowly-focused nationalism instead of considering the possibilities of American cultural productions, such as the Western and the music associated with it.