Getting of Wisdom, The
a novel by Henry Handel Richardson, published in 1910. The novel is based on the author's experiences as a boarder at the Presbyterian Ladies College, in Melbourne, during 1883 to 1887. It consists in a series of ironically depicted scenes whereby Laura Rambotham, ostracized by her teachers and peers because of her name, unusual clothes, and forthright opinions, painfully acquires wisdom about herself and the world. Torn between a defiant individuality and the desire to gain approval, she learns that the ‘unpardonable sin is to vary from the common mould’. Though personally immune to male appeal, she seeks to distinguish herself by inventing an intrigue with the local curate; new depths of rejection and misery result upon her exposure. A period of obsequiousness and caution is followed by a genuine friendship and acceptance into the school's prestigious literary society. Her final piece of wisdom comes when an appeal to God is apparently answered by an opportunity to cheat in her examinations; Laura takes the opportunity, subsequently resenting God as a double-dealing and pitiless being. Regarded as a classic portrait of the artist as an awkward adolescent, the novel was successfully produced as a film in 1977.