Precarious girls : gender, class, and the New Zealand short story : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Creative Writing at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand. EMBARGOED until 23 June 2021.
This thesis seeks to explore experiences of precarity in New Zealand fiction through an analysis of short fiction by Tracey Slaughter and Alice Tawhai, and my own collection of short stories. The critical component of this thesis explores intersections of identity such as gender and culture that influence and at times compound experiences of precarity. Results of these intersections in the fiction of Slaughter and Tawhai are the decrease in hope and feelings of self worth for characters and subsequent acceptance of unequal and at times abusive relationships for women in the precariat, including a lowered perception of rights for these characters. Slaughter and Tawhai also portray the differing levels of power characters wield in differing settings, showing that differing intersections of identity can fluctuate in power depending on the social environment. My own fiction also explores experiences of precarity. Some of these stories explore in particular the experience of community within the precariat as an enabling and comforting device, and experiences of precarity for rural women, in particular the gender roles expected for financial stability. Other stories explore the experience of precarity for those who are trying to escape this part of society, and the prevalence of mental illness in the precariat and ways characters use to cope with it or to feel safe. The last stories in this collection address family and community within the precariat, and the strong bonds created within the precariat to increase feelings of comfort and hope.