The novel Picnic at Hanging Rock By Joan Lindsay is about a group of female students at an Australian Boarding school. they vanish at Hanging Rock while on a Valentines Day picnic. Their disappearance has intense effects on the on the school and the local community. Two things that stood out to me was how Lindsay presents the ideas of freedom and control in different manners, exploring the motivation behind control, and its consequences. Control is portrayed as futile, as the strict regime at Appleyard college and societal pressure at the Fizhubert manor only exacerbates the character’s desire for freedom and exploration, rather than repress it. Freedom is presented as an inevitability. The more a character is controlled and made to conform to a certain set of behaviours, the stronger their desire to escape said control becomes.
One way Lindsay presents ideas of freedom and control is through the portrayed futility of control, ultimately resulting in freedom. This notion is depicted through the change of behaviour in Micheal and the three girls, and the consequent disappearance of the girls – excessive control and restriction being being the catalyst for this. Mrs Appleyard’s instructions to the girls before the picnic depicts the stern control the girls faced daily.
I have instructed Mademoiselle that as the day is likely to be warm, you may remove your gloves… Once again let me remind you that the Rock itself is extremely dangerous and you are therefore forbidden to engage in any tomboy foolishness in the matter of exploration
This furthers the idea that control is futile, because the girls ignore Mrs Appleyard’s warnings and proceed to explore the rock, leading to their disappearance. Mrs Appleyards meticulous control backfires, as it only exacerbates the curiosity of the curiosity of the girls, from a very traditional, very wealthy English family.