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AB Faceys ‘A Fortunate Life’ Chapters 9-68 Summary and Analysis

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  • Category: Family Life

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“My birthday went unnoticed, a common thing in those days” – Shows how Facey has matured, and the fact that his birthday is “unnoticed” is almost a sign of a coming of age as only children’s birthdays were celebrated, while his older acquaintances never celebrate their birthdays.

‘Snake Bite’ chapter reveals harsh realities of life in the outback. Adds to image of the setting of the bok being very desolate, desert like and dangerous.

In chapter 10, when Facey is denied payment for his services from Moran, he says “My experience up to now made me doubt the word of everyone”. This shows a change-of-self that has been triggered by people’s actions towards him. This view is further solicited when the Meikles hire him, but refuse to pay him as they have no money. When Facey is offered a similar job again, he is much more wary of taking it because of his previous experiences, indicating a change-of-self.

Facey reveals that he is not confident, and very shy when he says “I was a quiet boy, and never spoke unless spoken to.” And also, “I didn’t have much confidence in myself and the past two and a half years hadn’t helped”. This lack of self confidence can be partly attributed to his lack of education, as well as his past experiences. In later chapters however, we see Facey gaining much more confidence in himself.

Phillips’ provide Facey’s first real home since he left his grandmothers place. Mr and Mrs Phillips become father and mother figures to Facey, and Facey becomes a son to them. “Ms Phillips asked me to call her mum. She said she would like that, if I agreed, and Mr Phillips told me to call him Frank”.

See childish and immature under Facey’s mature exterior, which makes us realise that Facey is really just a child doing a man’s job. We see this when he tells us that “Being a boy, I couldn’t resist heaving a rock at the boar”

When Frank becomes angry and storms off, Facey is forced to kill the boar and cook it. This shows us that sometimes Facey must be more responsible than the adults in his life, even though he is still just a child in these chapters.

A significant event in chapter 15 is when the Phillips’ ask Facey if he would like to be adopted by them. Facey agrees, showing his love for the Phillips, however when Facey’s mother refuses, we see Facey accept this the way he accepts all the other sad moments in his life: in a very understated tone, that lends credibility to his story, and makes it much more dramatic and sympathy-evoking.

A change-of-self in the Phillips’ occurs when they start to treat Facey differently after they find out they will not be able to adopt him. This can be seen in the first few lines of chapter 16 which state: “From then on the Phillips’ attitude to me changed…They wouldn’t let me join in when they were talking and never took me with them anymore.

We see a change in Facey, who is usually very moral, however becomes more of a larrikin in our eyes when he tells us his anecdote about stealing the apples from his employers, one of a few humorous parts in the book.

We see a huge change in Facey’s opinion of his mother in the last chapter when the Phillips’ throw him out. He tells us in the concluding line that “All of my hopes of a permanent home were dashed because of an unworthy mother”. This is already a huge change of self, as in previous chapters Facey defends his mothers actions and tries to almost justify them, however in this chapter he acknowledges that she is an “unworthy mother”. He takes this futher when he says “I never found out what actually happened, but I think that she probably asked for money in exchange for me”, telling us that he believes his mother was just using him as a means to an end.

Throughout the whole book, Facey has been very strong and resilient to most of the terrible experiences he has gone through, however in the next chapter (17 – The Bibbys) we see a change of self when Facey breaks down and begins to cry. The reason for this is that “I felt alone in the world again”. The fact that he could not be adopted by the Phillips and they’re attitudes have changed towards him was the cause of this change of self. We also understand Facey’s attitudes towards life when he says “After awhile I pulled myself together and again started off, towards another job I hoped”. This epitomises the ‘Aussie’ identity of a battler and has become almost seamless with Australian identity and values.

We are again reminded of how young Facey is at this point when Mrs Bibby sees him and says “Your swag is bigger than you are.” The swag can be see to represent all the responsibility that Facey must carry on his shoulder, and to say that his ‘swag is bigger than he is’ is to say that he is taking on more responsibilities than someone like him should be taking on.

“Nobody knew [it was my birthday]; I hadn’t told them as birthdays were nothing to me… I used to hear a lot about birthday parties from time to time, but who was going to bother about me.” This quote shows the lack of confidence and self-worth Facey has in himself, and doesn’t think of himself as being as important as other children.

Rifle represents manhood

Facey has another bad experience with alcohol when he returns to the Bibbys and sees that none of the chores have been done, and dingoes have attacked the sheep. This adds to his morality by turning him further against alcohol.

In this chapter we see that even though Facey is formally uneducated, he is very knowledgeable in his are of interest, which is nature and he has an amazing and in-depth awareness of things that he needs to survive. We can see this when he is describing all the types of animals that he sees in the bush.

We also see how lonely Facey is, and how little of a social life he has as he views the birds and animals as friends and companions

We see a change of self in Facey in Chapter 20 (The Cattle Thief) when we see his aggressive side, and he actively defends himself, whereas in previous confrontations he has been the weaker party eg. Cave Rock Mob incident.The fact that the man has a whip reminds Facey of his experience with the Cave Rock mob and makes sure it does not happen again.

We see how harsh Facey’s lifestyle has been in chapter 21 when he sleeps on a bed and sees it as a “strange experience”. We also see that because of his lifestyle, Facey hasn’t had the chance to be educated and is embarrassed by this when he cannot even sign his name for the police.

26-36 – The Drive North

Focus Question 26-32

Facey has developed a positive picture of morality throughout many instances in the book. He is very opposed to the consumption of alcohol because of the experiences he had with the Cave Rock Mob and the Bibbys’ getting drunk and ruining the farm. This paints a negative picture of alcohol to us, and allows us to se why Facey is so opposed to the consumption of alcohol. Because of this, wherever he goes he seems to be trusted more than other men, and is viewed as a moralistic person. Evidence of this is when the drive is completed and Facey is the only one allowed into town, as the other men would simply get drunk and not complete the job.

Another situation which develops a positive picture of morality is the one with Bill and May. Even though Bill and May are in love, they have never touched one another, and refuse to do this until they are married. This positive picture of morality shows us that people can be in love without having to relinquish their beliefs and values. In society today, this seems very strange, as the majority of us view sex as something less sacred then it is in Facey’s setting and context.

Mateship is also one of the prevalent themes in ‘A Fortunate Life’. Facey often becomes good friends with strangers and this mateship allows Facey to work and find jobs easily. Facey relies on mateship often to help him through tough times, such as when he is on the cattle drive and he is ‘saddle-sore’ and is not sure of his place in the drive. In this instance his ‘mate’ Bob reassures him and helps him to ease into the job. He also relies on the mateship of strangers such as the Aboriginals that rescue him when he becomes lost. Even though they are strangers and Facey regards the Aboriginals in a suspicious manner, The Aboriginals still help him as a sign of their mateship with Bob. This becomes an important theme in the book, especially since the idea of mateship is so significantly interwoven with the Australian identity and image as well as the attributes of the ‘Australian working class man’.

Focus Question 33 – 36

The chapters covering ‘lost’ have several dramatic techniques in them, used to create imagery in our minds. The ordeal begins with the onset of a storm, a typical omen for something bad about to occur. We see the connection Facey has developed with his horse Dinnertime, when he feels comfort from the presence of the warmth and “some of the fear leaves” him. We see a major change in Facey when he almost gives up on his plight and tells us that he was “glad to lie there and let come what may. Funny I wasn’t frightened – I just didn’t care what became of me.” This is a major change in Facey, as previously he has not accepted defeat so easily and put up more of a fight. Throughout the ordeal, Facey is very “weak and discouraged” and simply describes it as “dreadful”. This understated way of saying it lends credibility to Facey’s story and is another attribute of the traditional Australian image of not complaining and getting on with the job at the hand.

Focus Question 37 – 48

37-41 – Knocking About

Facey blames his mother for the death of his sister Myra and tells us that “I felt that I hated my mother”, as she was indirectly the cause of Myra’s death. This is a change in Facey, as previously he has disliked his mother but has never said it to the reader directly. He also tells us that he thinks his grandmother is more capable than his mother and more important to him. When Facey is refused a job due to this lack of education, he sees how disadvantaged he truly is. We also gain a valuable insight into Facey’s perspective when he tells us that he was “out again in the cold hard world”. This is one of the rare times that Facey seems to be complaining, and allows us to see how he really views the world. Facey’s past experiences with farming, and the vast amount of knowledge he has collected from doing all sorts of odd jobs and taking on different responsibilities becomes important in his new life where he must tun virgin land into a wheat and sheep farm. Because of the variety of places he has worked, Facey is perfect for this job and it seems to be almost his destiny, as the many twists and turns of the path he has taken has led him to this job.


Facey’s character changes quite significantly in this chapter. He takes on a leadership role, whereas in other situations he has been following someone else’s orders. This change of self is thrust upon him when none of the other men from the Western Australian Water Supply are willing to take on the job of gang leader. Also, when Facey becomes trapped in the well, we see a change-of-self has occurred from the last time that he was in a situation like this, such as in ‘Lost’. In that chapter he was very worried, panicked, and unsure of what to do, but his experiences seem to have made him tougher because when he gets trapped in the well he seems to be in control (“While I was down in the well in great danger and scared stiff, crying was the furthest thing from my mind”) and have a good idea of what he needs to do to escape. This shows us that Facey underwent a change of self because of his experience during ‘Lost’, and this helped him when he got trapped in the well.

Also we see that although Facey has regarded his mother as a hindrance in previous chapters and not given her much attention, he “feels her death very much”. Although Facey may not have shown his love for his mother, it was present and it required the death of his mother for a change-of-self in him to occur.


At first Facey is conscientious during his military training, however is attitude towards the army and especially the senior officers changes significantly over these chapters. In several instances he goes as far as to say “the Senior Officer and the Military Authority deserved the most severe reprimand.” His character changes greatly as the war progresses and he comes to the conclusion that war is futile by the end of it – “And it is terrible to think it was all for nothing”

Facey lightens the mood by placing humour within the chapters. He also recounts his experiences in a very neutral tone and rarely expressing emotion. Because of this, when Facey is telling us about the war we still get a sense of the “nitty-gritty” however it is not sensationalised. This also emphasises the emotional parts of Facey’s recount as they contrast his neutral tone so greatly such as when he criticises an order as “a dam fool order”.


Facey tells us that before he was married he was “on his own. It was a lonely, solitary life”. When he meets his wife under very coincidental circumstances his life changes and after his marriage his “life became something which was much more than just me”. This is the first major change that occurs in Facey’s life after the war. Although we have seen many instances in which Facey has been facing death, starvation and hopelessness, we have seen his tough side come out. However, when one of his sons, George, goes missing, there is nothing that Facey can do whatsoever, and under these circumstances we see his more emotional side. A major change in Facey’s lifestyle occurs, as he is forced to work in the city for some time. As he is not used to city-life he must adapt and therefore this change f self is forced upon him. The depression shows Facey’s laidback attitude and love of life. Even though there is not much money and thy have to work very hard, Facey recounts it still in a very neutral tone and manages to make parts of it humorous.

When Facey’s wife dies, it is a major point in the book, even though Facey only mentions it fleetingly. The death of his grandmother also leaves Facey completely alone. We see how hard this has hit Facey as he does not write any further. This indicates to us that in a figurative sense, his life is meaningless or over to him at that point without his wife and grandmother.

We see that at the end, Facey is content with the way his ‘destiny’ unfolded, while many other older people are regretful or bitter of the roads they did not take.

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