The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson
is a coming-of-age novel by Henry Handel Richardson, first published in 1910. The novel is a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s own experiences growing up in Australia in the late 19th century, and it tells the story of a young girl named Laura Rambotham who is sent away to boarding school.
Laura is a bright and imaginative child who dreams of a life of adventure and excitement. However, her parents are conservative and narrow-minded, and they send her away to boarding school in the hopes of giving her a proper education and preparing her for a respectable future. At school, Laura finds herself surrounded by girls from wealthy and privileged families, and she struggles to fit in.
Despite the challenges she faces, Laura is determined to succeed. She works hard and excels academically, but she also longs for acceptance and approval from her peers. She befriends a group of popular girls and tries to imitate their behavior and attitudes, but she soon discovers that this only leads to heartache and disappointment.
As Laura grows older, she becomes more aware of the limitations imposed on women in Victorian society. She realizes that her dreams of adventure and independence are unlikely to be realized, and she begins to feel trapped and frustrated. She also becomes aware of the hypocrisy and cruelty of some of the people around her, including the teachers and staff at the school.
Despite these challenges, Laura remains determined to find her own path in life. She continues to work hard and to pursue her interests, and she eventually earns a scholarship to attend university. Along the way, she learns important lessons about friendship, love, and the importance of staying true to oneself.
“The Getting of Wisdom” is a novel that explores the complexities of growing up and finding one’s place in the world. Richardson’s portrayal of Laura is both sympathetic and unsparing, and she captures the nuances of adolescent emotions and relationships with remarkable insight and sensitivity. The novel also offers a vivid portrait of Victorian-era Australia, with its rigid social hierarchies and narrow expectations for women.
One of the most notable aspects of the novel is its treatment of gender roles and expectations. Richardson was writing at a time when women’s rights and opportunities were severely limited, and she was a vocal advocate for women’s education and independence. “The Getting of Wisdom” is a powerful statement on the importance of education and self-determination for women, and it remains a landmark work of feminist literature.
Overall, “The Getting of Wisdom” is a classic novel that still resonates with readers today. Its themes of identity, self-discovery, and social conformity are timeless and universal, and its portrayal of a young woman’s journey to adulthood is both moving and inspiring. Richardson’s prose is elegant and precise, and her characters are complex and fully realized. The novel is a testament to the power of literature to illuminate the human experience and to inspire change.