Helen Garners controversial novel The First Stone (1995) tells the story of a sexual harassment case in a Melbourne university, and attempts to analyse the power relations between men and women. By applying psychoanalytic criticism to this novel it clearly becomes an interesting work of investigative journalism that could be classed as valued Australian literature.
Psychoanalytic Criticism is defined by Moon (1992, p.97) " as seeing literary texts as representing the unconscious thoughts and desires shared by members of a culture. It provides a way of exploring the social construction of personal identities, especially through the readers interaction with the text." Psychoanalysis is a theory developed by Sigmund Freud where concentration is placed on the unconscious life of individuals, however recent conceptions of psychoanalysis see it as a way of 'decoding' the sexual symbolism of literary texts in order to uncover the authors unconscious obsessions. Stevens and Stewart (1996, pp.108-109) state that " Freud viewed literature as the fantasy projection of the artist" and that if " fantasies exist in the unconscious of the artists, they also reside in the unconscious of the audience". So in relation to Garners controversial novel The First Stone, not only is it a compelling work of imagination but it could be classed as a work of fantasy. It seems that this novel is a far cry from the so called ' debate about sex and power' that Garner describes on the back cover. It is more obviously a symbolic statement of Garner's unconscious fantasies that she could not otherwise admit. Marilyn Lake (in Australian Book Review, 1995,p.26) states " As it sank to its lowest intellectual level , the 'debate' about The First Stone became a series of nostalgic reminiscences about the joys of sex."
Throughout the novel many symbols of Garners unconscious fantasies can be found. By using the word ' I