Picnic at Hanging Rock


Joan Lindsay

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Themes and Colors
Nature, Repression, and Colonialism Theme Icon
Mystery and the Unknown Theme Icon
Wealth and Class Theme Icon
Gossip and Scandal  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Picnic at Hanging Rock, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Nature, Repression, and Colonialism

The titular setting of Picnic at Hanging Rock is also its central symbol, and the locus of one of its most important themes. Hanging Rock is a volcanic formation in Victoria, Australia which was, for tens of thousands of years, a sacred meeting-place for several Aboriginal tribes. It is enormous, remote, and—in spite of the picnic grounds and privies which have sprung up at its base to make tourists more comfortable—a place of wild, untamed…

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Mystery and the Unknown

Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock is a novel about a bizarre fictional mystery. The mystery at the heart of the book—the disappearance of three schoolgirls and one of their governesses during a picnic at Hanging Rock in Victoria, Australia—is famously left unresolved, and as the tragic event’s reverberations make their way through the rural community surrounding the rock, the characters in the novel must wrestle with the fact that what has happened has no…

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Wealth and Class

The society depicted in Picnic at Hanging Rock is one still in its nascent stages. The settlers and colonizers who populate the township of Mount Macedon in 1900 are poor farmers, wealthy English transplants, girls on the cusp of enormous inheritances, and destitute orphans. The socioeconomic striations within this fledgling society are profound. As the novel’s characters seek to cement or change their places in society, Lindsay suggests that even in a place as full…

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Gossip and Scandal

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a fictional book written in the form of a true crime document. For years after its publication, readers sought to uncover any trace of news articles or historical documents about the purportedly real disappearance at Hanging Rock—to no avail. Just as Joan Lindsay created shock, titillation, and rabid interest in her readership, the characters within her novel spread gossip, rumors, and scandal. By creating a book which in itself…

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