Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies

Article: de Boer

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Narrelle de Boer

Edith Cowan University

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Maternal Absence and Incestuous Desire in Patrick Holland’s The Mary Smokes Boys


The Gothic is renowned for its portrayals of family centred trauma. Parental figures are at best neglectful or absent, and at their worst, predatory and/or murderous. Female characters are at particular risk of death or abuse, and mothers often die leaving their daughters unprotected and vulnerable to the incestuous desire of older male relatives. Set in a dying country town near the Mary Smokes Creek in the Queensland hinterland in the mid-eighties, Patrick Holland’s melancholic novel The Mary Smokes Boys (2013) incorporates these familiar tropes into a uniquely Australian Gothic, and in particular it is the absent presence of the dead mother and the relentless mourning of her son that informs the unsettling nature of the relationships that occur within the novel. This paper examines these transgressive relationships in relation to absent mothers and incestuous desire within the Gothic tradition.

Keywords: Gothic, Australian fiction, Australian Gothic, Patrick Holland, The Mary Smokes Boys, incest, Freud

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Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies

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