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Literature / The Harp in the South

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The Harp in the South was the first novel of the New Zealand born Australian writer Ruth Park. First published in 1948. It is about the Darcy Family, second generation Irish-Australians who live in the slums of Surry Hills in Sydney 1940s in the years after World War II. There's Hughie Darcy, fond of a quick one at the pub every now and then, Mumma who at times seems the only one with any sense, Rowena "Roie" Darcy who is arguable the novel's protagonist, her smart tomboyish sister Dolour Darcy and Grandma. They live in 12 1/4 Plymouth Street with two of the rooms let to radical Orangeman Patrick Diamond and Miss Sheilly and her son Johnny. Later joined by Roie's husband Charlie Rothe and their daughter Moira.

There is a sequel Poor Man's Orange that continues the story and a Prequel, Missus, that was published fairly recently. There was also a television series done by Channel 10 in Australia, but the DVD is somewhat hard to find.


This work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: While the television series is rather accurate, it shows the events in a different order. For instance, Grandma is dead by the time of Roie's wedding and when Miss Sheilly meets Mr Gunnarson.
  • The Alcoholic: Hughie, though Grandma could also qualify. Mumma more or less accepts this about Hughie, though it doesn't stop her from railing at him every Friday night.
  • Death by Childbirth: Roie.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": The barrel organist Mr Gunnarson is told off by Miss Sheilly at for playing music at Grandma's funeral, he later goes to see her and Miss Sheilly tells him off again for using a funeral as an excuse to pick up a woman.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Roie saves the money and makes an appointment to a Back-Alley Doctor but runs away scared when she hears a girl scream, she is then attacked by sailors and has a Convenient Miscarriage.
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  • Happily Married: Roie and Charlie.
  • Irish Priest: Father Cooley, the the point where he stipp unconsciously "wipes the bog off his shoes" when he steps inside.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Roie hides it from everyone, and Mumma and Hugie don't know until she miscarries. Her Dolour does not find out for a very long time and Charlie was perhaps never told about it.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Hughie finds this out when he tries to make the Christmas pudding.
  • Punny Name: Lick Jimmy, he's oblivious to this even when the kids as him where he wants to be licked.
  • Streetwalker: There are many in Surry Hills as it's a known Red Light District. The notable ones are Dellie Stock and Chocolate Molly.
    • Though Dellie Stock does have a soft side, when she gave away the money she won in the lottery to give the kids a Christmas picnic.
  • Yellow Peril: Played straight and then averted.


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