Analysis of The Novel Sixty Lights by Gail Jones

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Words: 1312 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Nov 8, 2019

Words: 1312|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Nov 8, 2019

Many literary pieces were written during the Victorian era, often revolving around the concepts of death and love. The Victorian era saw the unequal treatment of women and huge technological advances. It was considered an important literary period with romanticism at the forefront. However, the novel, Sixty Lights, by Gail Jones, contradicts the expectations readers hold for a novel set in the Victorian era.

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Jones’ novel follows the postmodern movement which is seen as a response to previously accepted expectations within the culture and literature of the time. The Oxford dictionary defines postmodernism as a late 20th-century style and concept in the arts and a criticism, which is characterised by the self-conscious use of earlier styles and conventions, a mixing of different artistic styles and media, and a general distrust of theories. Jones uses postmodern techniques to challenge expectations people held about the Victorian period and uses the perspective of marginalised people during the Victorian era to allow readers to recognise different aspects of the time. Jones also uses the technique of fragmentation to distort time and allow the reader to view multiple experiences, viewpoints, and memories. Jones also pays reference to other texts in her novel to foreshadow events and includes the various ways in which one text references another.

The novel, Sixty Lights, begins narrating the life of eight-year-old Lucy Strange along with her brother Thomas who experience the death of their mother, Honoria, and their father, Arthur. Lucy is the protagonist in the novel, contradicting the expectation for Victorian novels of the time which would have seen Thomas take the lead. Lucy represents the marginalisation of women during the Victorian era and challenges how women were expected to behave and think during this time. This is a common practice in postmodernist texts. This is exhibited in the novel when Lucy was fourteen-years-old and working in an egg-filled factory. Rose, one of Lucy’s coworkers, who was “cowered and abused by her much larger husband” is demanded to be seen by her controlling husband. Lucy bravely confronts him and authoritatively asks him to leave. In response, she is struck across the face with the back of his hand. Despite Lucy being hit, she was successful in making the man leave and providing the other women with hope and strength which is seen in the narration, “All this foolish bravery and her face battered, leaking blood, lying sideways in a thin pool of broken eggs, which resemble so many smashed up and still-glistening lights.” This completely disregards the literary expectation of Victorian novels and provides a postmodernism perspective, unveiling how women are just as strong and important as male figures. Lucy’s character also challenges expectations of women of the time as she openly expresses her opinions and thoughts, acting freely, not oppressed or controlled by anyone.

The marginalised point of view of women is continued in the novel, Sixty Lights, when Honoria’s life is narrated. Honoria’s perspective continues to defy expectations of literary novels set in the Victorian era by openly expressing her opinions and showing she is in control and not suppressed by male figures, including her husband. When Honoria was pregnant with her first child, she observed the changes in her body and reflected on its changes. The book narrated, “In the first two years of their marriage Honoria Strange had unlearned and relearned her body, and now, at twenty, it seemed untutored again. Yet she faced herself naked in the mirror and experienced her own existence as complete self-possession.” This continues the idea that Honoria was in complete control of her decisions, her life, and her body and wasn’t oppressed by male authority figures such as her father or husband which were expected to have ownership and control over her during the Victorian era. This postmodern text reveals the perspective of females, a strongly marginalised group during this era, and presents the idea that women are able to freely express themselves and their opinions and are more than someone’s possession.

The novel, Sixty Lights, continually switches character viewpoints and distorts time. This allows the characters to reflect on memories and different points in their lives. The novel is only able to accomplish this through postmodernism and the technique of fragmentation. Fragmentation is where experiences are depicted out of chronological order and include dream immersions and side stories. It’s used to imitate human memory. It expresses the idea that time and experiences are relative. At the end of chapter eleven, Lucy is going through her mother’s belongings after her passing and trying to summon her mother’s face but couldn’t. From this moment forth, she intently looks at each face she sees, with the intent of not forgetting a face “And every photographic ambition will turn on the summoning of a face and the retrieval of what languishing just beyond vision. Years later, in the middle of the night, in a pleat in time, Lucy wakes to find herself whispering the words: mother-of-pearl.” After this Lucy remembers all of her mother’s belongings clearly. This use of fragmentation allows the author to replicate the human memory and change the sequence and direction of the story. This postmodern technique challenges the rigid structure of novels set in the Victorian era by supplying a story that is not linear or subjective.

An element of postmodernism is intertextuality which is expressed in the novel, Sixty Lights. This alludes to and predicts the outcome of the novel. Intertextuality is the shaping of a text's meaning by another text. It is defined as the association between similar pieces of literature that control an audience's interpretation of a text. The author uses this technique to compare the novel to ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Great Expectations, reminding the readers of their similarity multiple times in the novel. All three novels have a central focus on an orphan who goes through a great struggle or experiences great loss in their life. Sixty Lights and the novel, Jane Eyre, both have strong, female heroines that guide the narrative, however, ‘Great Expectations’ has a male protagonist but is still just as marginalised and experiences similar struggles to Jane Eyre and Lucy Strange. Jones decided to compare her novel to these coming of age novels to foreshadow the experiences Lucy will go through and control the readers’ interpretation of the novel as a journey of self-discovery with a strong female protagonist. The author also uses the technique of pastiche which is to imitate other texts and adopting the stylings and ideas of the original whilst creating something new. This is evident in the novel, Sixty Lights, due to the numerous similarities between the texts, ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Great Expectations’.

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The novel, Sixty Lights, responded to previously prevailing expectations in literary pieces set in the Victorian Era by using postmodernist techniques throughout the entirety of the novel. This contradicts the expectations readers hold for novels set in the Victorian era by disregarding a rigid narrative structure and is disconcerted with romanticism. The postmodern techniques in the novel allow the reader to observe events from a marginalised perspective. This is accomplished through Lucy, who is the female heroine of the novel, disregarding the stereotype of male protagonists. This marginalised perspective is prolonged with Honoria, Lucy’s mother, as we see her take full ownership of herself and isn’t oppressed by male authority figures in her life. Jones implements fragmentation to contort time and supply the reader with multiple viewpoints and memories. Jones also uses intertextuality and pastiche to comments on other texts in her novel, such as the novels, ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Great Expectation’. The novels prognosticate events and draw similarities between each other and ‘Sixty Lights’. Gail Jones’ novel, Sixty Lights, defies expectations within Victorian-era culture and literature and provides a postmodernist view of the time, allowing readers to be emersed in a human-like experience and observe this time in the context of those marginalised women.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Analysis Of The Novel Sixty Lights By Gail Jones. (2019, September 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from
“Analysis Of The Novel Sixty Lights By Gail Jones.” GradesFixer, 13 Sept. 2019,
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