The Secret River Study Guide

Lisa Tran

February 27, 2011

English & EAL

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Background

During 18th century to mid 19th century, 162,000 men and women were transported to Australia, with majority from England. These people, known as ‘convicts’, had committed crimes such as larceny and robbery – acts which were considered severe offenses and demanded heavy sentences. In order to deal with the overwhelming masses of criminals, the government exported crowds of convicts to Australia to serve their term as labourers. The reason driving the deportation included an attempt to decrease poverty and crime in England while concurrently developing the British colony in Australia.

Many of the fleets from England were destined for New South Wales, Australia. Those on the fleets included the criminals, marines, and their families. Living in a penal colony, the criminals were employed depending on their various skills: farmer, boatman, servant etc. The settlers were award a ‘ticket of leave’ if they presented good behaviour during labour. This meant that settlers would become emancipists, where they were set free from the government’s sentence and could begin a life for themselves by making their own living. This suited the government’s goal for a successful and thriving colony since it would only be possible if people were to work for themselves, and not under the terrain of the government.

Although Australia was chiefly populated with Indigenous Australians, the first century of colonisation saw a drastic decline in their population. This was due to a clash of desire for the land; the native’s innate protection of their land and the white settlers struggle to declare their right to an area already inhibited by natives – possibly for 40,000 years. The two cultures failed to ever create a peace agreement or compensation and as a result, the frontier was often marked with blood. Overtime, a successful of the British colony meant that white settlement overpowered any possibility of the natives retaining their land. The Secret River’s exploration of this powerful change in Australia’s history is a poignant reflection of the past, and demands attention to the sensitive issue of Australian and native relationship that is still present today.

To learn more, visit Kate Grenville’s website here.

Setting/Time

Set during the early 19th century. Located in London, Sydney and on the Hawkesbury.

Chapter 1: Strangers

Plot

The Alexander, a transport ship for convicts has reached New South Wales, Australia after a travelling across the world for

During his first night in New South Wales, where their homes are ‘only a flap of bark, a screen of sticks and mud,’ Thornhill digested the new land with its ‘rich dank smells…restless water…no Pole star’; an environment vastly differentiated from England. The unfamiliar situation is overwhelming as ‘he had not cried, not for thirty years….but now his throat was thickening.’ In his despair, Thornhill describes how being sentenced to New South Wales could potentially be worse than

Initially, Thornhill believed his tears are clouding his vision since the ‘darkness moved in front of him’ [pg 5]. However, he then realised that a human, ‘as black as the air itself’ stood before him. The unusual appearance of this human struck Thornhill since ‘his skin swallowed the light…[and] eyes were set so deeply into the skull.’ Although clothed, Thornhill ironically felt ‘skinless’ against the other who was completely naked and holding a spear. Thornhill repeatedly demanded that the man ‘be off’, for fear of his family and himself being attacked. Despite his shouting, this only impelled the man to move closer to the point where they almost touched. The ‘black man’ [pg 6] reproduced ‘be off’ in Thornhill’s exact tone. While Thornhill’s fear of this strange human is prominent, he grappled the strength to exert a bold, intrepid veneer, as ‘he was not about to surrender to any naked black man’. When he glanced back to his wife and children however, the man promptly disappeared, leaving only the darkness behind. Thornhill returned to his hut where he laid back down to rest yet ‘every muscle was tensed…the cold moment of finding that unforgiving thing in his flesh.’

Encountering Conflict Analysis

As a child growing up in poverty, William Thornhill, one of the 10 members of the Thornhill family, lived in an overcrowded low-browed home. The Thornhill’s, unlike many other families, did not regularly

The name ‘William Thornhill’ was commonplace in the late eighteenth century in England. From Old Mr Thornhill and his son Young

Impoverished, Thornhill knew only of a life of constant starvation. In order to survive, stealing was a part of life for the Thornhills. On one occasion, each of the children managed to steal from a bookshop with the best book pawned for a valuable shilling. On rare occasions when food was present, he would always fight his brothers for a piece of bread. Out of desperation, he often resulted to eating bedbugs during the night to alleviate the unbearable pain at in his stomach.

The one part of Thornhill’s life that contrasted his poverty was Sal, his friend from Swan Lane, an area much better off than his own. Sal being an only child, grew up with all the attention from her parents, something Thornhill envied. Her kindheartedness and compassion towards the cruelty of animals was a stark difference from his savage lifestyle. Her presence in his life ‘warmed him from inside’. [pg 19]

When his parents died from health illnesses, Thornhill, being the oldest brother still living with his family was left to care for his siblings. Shifting between available jobs, he worked at the maltings, Nettlefold & Mosers and as a lumper down on the wharves. Unfortunately ,these jobs never saved the Thornhill’s from starvation. It was Mr Middleton, Sal’s father who offered Thornhill to be his apprentice on the river that changed his course in life. The apprenticeship was to be seven years long, during which he would learn Mr Middleton’s skills as a waterman. Thornhill secretly planned to marry Sal at the end of the apprenticeship and inherit the business since he was son Mr Middleton never had.

During his time on the river, Thornhill learnt about the tides, how to control an oar and also how his ‘blisters never got a chance to heal.’ [pg 27] With Mr Middleton’s benevolence, ‘for the first time in his life, Thornhill was not always hungry, not always cold.’ He was also exposed to the gentry through his apprenticeship. Majority of his customers were upper-class citizens who would spend a meal’s worth of money on a single fare. To Thornhill, ‘the gentry seemed another species’ due to their manner of speech, expensive clothing and the grand events they attended. His position below the gentry clear when one time a man disgruntled, ‘don’t expose your leg to the boatman!’ [pg 30] to his mischievous partner.

On Sundays when Thornhill had a break from work, he would spend the time with Sal. Without an education, he had never previously used paper nor pen. She slowly taught him to write his name, ‘William Thornhill.’ Although a basic skill, this was a milestone achievement, since ‘he was still only sixteen, and no one in his family had ever gone so far.’ [pg 35]

At the end of his apprenticeship and in spirit of his plans, he and Sal married. Since William was now a freeman of the river, Mr Middleton offered Thornhill his second-best wherry as a wedding gift. The couple soon welcomed a baby boy – also named William Thornhill, but nicknamed Willie. For once in Thonhill’s life, he experienced great satisfaction for he ‘went about smiling about nothing.’ [pg 40]

However during the winter of Willie’s second birthday, things turned for the worst. Both Mrs and Mr Middleton died within a week of one another. With the river iced over, William had no work to provide his family income. It became routine to move into places they could afford, each home smaller than the previous. At Thornhill’s regret but also appreciation, Sal began to steal food from the stalls. Unable to prove that his wherry was a wedding gift, it was seized by the state in order to pay off their debt. With no boat, he had to work for others, one of whom was Mr Lucas. After working three years under Lucas’ employment, Thornhill had reverted to his old ways, stealing small quantities of tea, wine and other utilities without being caught. However, one night when William attempted to steal Brazil wood worth 50 pounds, Lucas, being especially vigilant about the wood caught Thornhill during the incriminating act. William managed to escape from Lucas’ chase but was ultimately found ‘hiding out up the river at Acre Wharf, next to the flour mill.’ [pg 59]

The punishment for larceny was severe during Thornhill’s time. His sentence was to be ‘hanged by the neck until you are dead.’ [pg 66]While he accepted his fate, that there was ‘nothing ahead but death,’ Sal on the other hand, never ceased to give up. She had discovered that letters that could be delivered ‘up the line’ which had changed the outcome of other’s condemned to the same fate as William. They sent a letter to Captain Watson, which then spawned other letters until ultimately reaching Lord Hawkesbury who would decide whether or not William’s plea would call for a reprieve. One day upon hearing his name yelled out, William ‘expected the worst and called out, Not yet! Friday sennight they said!’ [pg 69] expecting to be hanged. However, the turnkey informed William that he had been granted pardon from his death on the condition that he is transported to New South Wales along with his family.

Chapter 2: London

Plot

As a child growing up in poverty, William Thornhill, one of the 10 members of the Thornhill family, lived in an overcrowded low-browed home. The Thornhill’s, unlike many other families, did not regularly attended church. Instead, Thornhill feared of the ‘snarling stone lions’ [pg 10] and a ‘vertiginous lawn’ on the church’s front. He regarded the church as a place with ‘no kindly shadows anywhere’ due to the ‘merciless light’, streaming in from windows.

The name ‘William Thornhill’ was commonplace in the late eighteenth century in England. From Old Mr Thornhill and his son Young William, to the Sea Captain’s baby also named Willian Thornhill, the protagonist knew that his name was insignificant amongst the others. His sister Mary reinforced this fact, teasing that his name was ‘common as dirt.’ [pg 11] To further his sense of worthlessness, his name is second-hand from his dead older brother, a short-lived newborn who was also named William Thornhill.

Impoverished, Thornhill knew only of a life of constant starvation. In order to survive, stealing was a part of life for the Thornhills. On one occasion, each of the children managed to steal from a bookshop with the best book pawned for a valuable shilling. On rare occasions when food was present, he would always fight his brothers for a piece of bread. Out of desperation, he often resulted to eating bedbugs during the night to alleviate the unbearable pain at in his stomach.

The one part of Thornhill’s life that contrasted his poverty was Sal, his friend from Swan Lane, an area much better off than his own. Sal being an only child, grew up with all the attention from her parents, something Thornhill envied. Her kindheartedness and compassion towards the cruelty of animals was a stark difference from his savage lifestyle. Her presence in his life ‘warmed him from inside’. [pg 19]

When his parents died from health illnesses, Thornhill, being the oldest brother still living with his family was left to care for his siblings. Shifting between available jobs, he worked at the

During his time on the river, Thornhill learnt about the tides, how to control an oar and also how his ‘blisters never got a chance to heal.’ [pg 27] With Mr Middleton’s benevolence, ‘for the first time in his life, Thornhill was not always hungry, not always cold.’ He was also exposed to the gentry through his apprenticeship. Majority of his customers were upper-class citizens who would spend a meal’s worth of money on a single fare. To Thornhill, ‘the gentry seemed another species’ due to their manner of speech, expensive clothing and the grand events they attended. His position below the gentry clear when one time a man disgruntled, ‘don’t expose your leg to the boatman!’ [pg 30] to his mischievous partner.

On Sundays when Thornhill had a break from work, he would spend the time with Sal. Without an education, he had never previously used paper nor pen. She slowly taught him to write his name, ‘William Thornhill.’ Although a basic skill, this was a milestone achievement, since ‘he was still only sixteen, and no one in his family had ever gone so far.’ [pg 35]

At the end of his apprenticeship and in spirit of his plans, he and Sal married. Since William was now a freeman of the river, Mr Middleton offered Thornhill his second-best wherry as a wedding gift. The couple soon welcomed a baby boy – also named William Thornhill, but nicknamed Willie. For once in Thonhill’s life, he experienced great satisfaction for he ‘went about smiling about nothing.’ [pg 40]

However during the winter of Willie’s second birthday, things turned for the worst. Both Mrs and Mr Middleton died within a week of one another. With the river iced over, William had no work to provide his family income. It became routine to move into places they could afford, each home smaller than the previous. At Thornhill’s regret but also appreciation, Sal began to steal food from the stalls. Unable to prove that his wherry was a wedding gift, it was seized by the state in order to pay off their debt. With no boat, he had to work for others, one of whom was Mr Lucas. After working three years under Lucas’ employment, Thornhill had reverted to his old ways, stealing small quantities of tea, wine and other utilities without being caught. However, one night when William attempted to steal Brazil wood worth 50 pounds, Lucas, being especially vigilant about the wood caught Thornhill during the incriminating act. William managed to escape from Lucas’ chase but was ultimately found ‘hiding out up the river at Acre Wharf, next to the flour mill.’ [pg 59]

The punishment for larceny was severe during Thornhill’s time. His sentence was to be ‘hanged by the neck until you are dead.’ [pg 66]While he accepted his fate, that there was ‘nothing ahead but death,’ Sal on the other hand, never ceased to give up. She had discovered that letters that could be delivered ‘up the line’ which had changed the outcome of other’s condemned to the same fate as William. They sent a letter to Captain Watson, which then spawned other letters until ultimately reaching Lord Hawkesbury who would decide whether or not William’s plea would call for a reprieve. One day upon hearing his name yelled out, William ‘expected the worst and called out, Not yet! Friday sennight they said!’ [pg 69] expecting to be hanged. However, the turnkey informed William that he had been granted pardon from his death on the condition that he is transported to New South Wales along with his family.

Encountering Conflict Analysis

Conflict with a sense of belonging and identity

Much of The Secret River deals with Thornhill’s inability to feel a sense of personal worth. Living in a life where there the future looked bleak, Thornhill felt as though he would be no one in the world, just another William Thornhill among the other ‘William

When he was chosen to be an

Sal and Thornhill’s son was named William Thornhill after the newborn’s father. Although there were ‘too many Thornhill’s in the world,’ Thornhill’s perception of his position in the world was altered since he had gone beyond anyone in his family and possessed a prosperous-looking future.

Conflict with lifestyle

Thornhill’s life was harsh growing up. His love for Sal was an escape from his destitution. He is proud and grateful that ‘another life would be waiting for him’ [pg 37] when he completed the apprenticeship and fulfilled his dreams. For some time, everything in his life fell into place. He married Sal, was given a wherry and lived in their own place as newly-weds. However, the short-lived comfortable life was stripped away when Sal’s parents pass away. Thornhill found that ‘his life was going backwards’ [pg 47], back to poverty – only this time with Sal. Once again, Thornhill struggled with poverty and took any jobs where he would be hired. To have gained a taste of what life was like beyond poverty, yet to fall back into the life was a painful challenged that Thornhill had to struggle with.

Conflict with social hierarchy

During his seven years apprenticeship, Thornhill developed a strong sense of ‘hatred’ [pg 48]towards the gentry. As an apprentice, working for the privileged every day exposed him the lifestyle that existed for those upon from a higher social status in England. Being from the lowest rank in society, Thornhill struggled with the fact that he worked

The dichotomy between the upper and lower class in England is evident through Thornhill’s boss, Lucas. The social position is symbolized when ‘Thornhill squinted up into the brightness, where Lucas looked down upon him’ [pg 55]. Thornhill exists on a ‘lower’ level than Lucas, who ‘looks down’ on Thornhill with authority and power. Although Thornhill stole the

Key Passages

Thornhill’s inner conflict: with a sense of belonging and identity

‘From the time he knew his own name, William Thornhill, it seemed that the world was crowded with other William Thornhills….He punched her straight back and shouted, William Thornhills will fill up the whole world, and she had no comeback to that, smart and all she was.’ [pg 10-11]

‘It was easy to wish to belong in this house, number 31, Swan Lane….No houses, no alleyways, nobody watching, except now and then the gypsies passing through, but they were soon gone and the place was theirs again.’ [pg 17-18]

Thornhill’s inner conflict: with his social position and poverty

‘In the rooms where William Thornhill grew up, in the last decards of the eighteenth century, no once could move an elbow without hitting the wall or the table or a sisiter or a brother….He could not understand any of it, knew only that God was as foreign as a fish.’ [pg 9-10]

‘He worked, day after day, for whoever would employ a journeyman with no boat of his own…There was a great emptiness in him, which was the space where hope had been.’ [pg 48-49]

‘But as soon as he was gone it fell into pieces with amazing speed…What point could there be to hoping, when everything could be broken so easily?’ [pg 43-45]

Thornhill’s inner conflict: with his criminal actions

‘A man with a clear conscience did not need to fear the dark…So they came and found him where he was hiding out up the river at Acre Wharf, next to the flour mill.’ [pg 53-59]

Thornhill’s inner conflict: with the effect his criminal actions have on Sal

‘Miraculously, the letter spawned another…Sal had committed no crime, but she was sentenced, just as surely as he was.’ [pg 68-69]

Thornhill’s inner conflict: with gentry

‘He stayed in the lee of Mr Middleton, who looked sterner than ever, his shoulders held back like one of the guardsmen at the Palace, as he faced a vast mahogany table behind which sat half a dozen men in robes…..License granted, I would say, and it was done.’ [pg 25-26]

‘The gentry seemed another species, more enigmatic than any Lascar, and it came upon him as a surprise that they might be driven by the same impulses as any other human animal….The glance that passed between them was the glance of two creatures, male and female of the same species, recognizing each others’ blood.’ [pg 31-31]

‘The court of the Old Bailey was a bear-pit….It took him some time, when he was first pushed up onto his pedestal, to see the judge behind his carved bench: a tiny grey face, dwarfed by his full-bottomed wig, by the layers of his robes, by the lapping collar with the gold edging, until there was no trace of the human within.’ [pg 61-63]

Important Quotes

Thornhill’s inner conflict: with his social position and poverty

‘…no one could move an elbow without hitting the wall or the table or a sisiter or a brother.’ [pg 9]

‘He was always hungry. That was a fact of life: the gnawing feeling in his belly, the flat taste in his mouth, the rage that there was never enough.’ [pg 11]

‘Except that the ache in his belly was even worse than the stink of the shit.’ [pg 14]

‘It was the feeling of having a place.’ [pg 17]

‘But as soon as he was gone it fell into pieces with amazing speed.’ [pg 43]

‘His life was going backwards.’ [pg 47]

‘He tried not to think of their happy days. In Newgate that soft hopeful part of him was hardening over, becoming lifeless like stone or shell.’ [pg 60]

Thornhill’s inner conflict: with religion and faith

‘He could not understand any of it, knew only that God was as foreign as a fish.’ [pg 10]

“…as God is our witness.” [pg 48]

Thornhill’s inner conflict: with a sense of belonging and identity

‘Your name is common as dirt, William Thornhill.’ [pg 11]

‘William Thornhills will fill up the whole world.’

‘He swore to himself that he would be the best apprentice, the strongest, quickest, cleverest. That when freed in seven years he would be the most diligent waterman on the whole of the Thames.’ [pg 25]

‘He was still only sixteen, and no one in his family had ever gone so far.’ [pg 35]

‘Then he was back in the cell with the others, but without his story, stripped naked of his tale of injured innocence, stripped of everything but the knowledge that his moment of hope had been and gone, and left him now with nothing ahead but death.’ [pg 66]

Thornhill’s inner conflict: with the effect his actions have on Sal

‘Sal had committed no crime, but she was sentenced, just as surely as he was.’ [pg 69]

‘And may God have mercy on her soul!’ [pg 71]

Thornhill’s inner conflict: with

‘…men were ranged on top of each other, all the way from the

‘Look at me, fellow, and what I have got!’ [pg 30]

‘The glanced that passed between them was the glance of two creatures, male and female of the same species, recognizing each others’ blood.’ [pg 32]

‘…came to hate them warm in their furs, their hands deep in their pockets, their eyes almost hidden by their caps, feet snug in big warm boots, while his bare ones were freshly wet a hundred times a day and froze in between times while he waited for their pleasure.’ [pg 48]

‘Thornhill squinted up into the brightness, where Lucas looked down at him.’ [pg 55]

‘…judge was gentry, the same way God was gentry.’ [pg 61]

Chapter 3: Sydney

Plot

Thornhill was destined for Sydney Cove, a place designed ‘to be a container for those condemned by His Majesty’s courts’ [pg 75]. The environment was visibly contrasted from England. In Australia, the sun was harsh and powerful unlike any sun he had ever felt. There was a ‘wicked glinting of the water’ [pg 76] that hurt his naïve eyes, and only a handful of residential areas, ‘few blocky golden buildings lined the shore.’ After a solitary nine months apart from his family during the voyage, Thornhill was finally reunited with his family. Willie, now a five year old, failed to recognise his father. During their time apart, Sal gave birth to another child, named Richard.

Sal was assigned as Thornhill’s master, in a penal system where the convicts would work as slaves – a form of imprisonment. This method meant that masters and their slaves would support themselves, rather than rely on the Government assistance. The ticket of leave was a pardon for slaves when they demonstrated long-term good behaviour. This meant that felons would no longer serve

During his first night in the new surroundings, Thornhill encountered a black man with whom he struggled to communicate [see Strangers]. Thornhill soon found employment ‘to convey…casks from ships to [the]

After a year

Three years after the Thornhills had settled into their new home, Mr King hired a new clerk who was ‘more fastidious about his lists’ and soon began to ‘look sideways’ at Thornhill. Thornhill decided it was best to leave Mr King before he would be condemned to Van Diemen’s Land, a place to further punish convicts. Thornhill found an old friend, Thomas Blackwood from Thames who had also been sentenced ‘to death, and then to life’ [pg 94]. Blackwood had received his pardon and was making a legitimate living with a new boat, ‘Queen.’ It was a common knowledge that the Hawkesbury river, as Blackwood named, was the place where people ‘might get rich there, and for once, a lighterman had a better chance at riches then gentry.’ [pg 95] He began to work for Blackwood as a replacement job, but also because he was developing a love for the Hawkesbury that ‘everyone spole about but few had seen’ [pg 98].

While with Blackwood, Thornhill met Smasher Sullivan, a man who had ‘something horrible about the red skin of his forehead, his naked face’ [pg 103]. At Smasher’s residence, Thornhill was shocked to see a dead black man hung like a scarescrow. Blackwood taught Thornhill that land was ‘not a matter of ask up here mate…get your backside on a bit of ground, sit tight’ [pg 105]. With the new dream of owning land which he could call his own, or ‘Thornhill’s point’ as he desired, he tried to convince Sal of their potential futures in Australia. Sal was reluctant however, intent on returning ‘home’ [pg 116] in England, where they had would own ‘wherries’ and ‘stuffed armchairs’ [pg 110]. For the first time they disagreed on something ‘that mattered’ [pg 111]. Yet Thornhill continued to preserve his dream. As the years passed, his family grew larger, with Willie, Dick, baby Johnny and another on its way. An emancipist, Thornhill established himself as a waterman on the Hawkesbury with his vessel, Hope. Fearing that another settler would take Thornhill’s desired land if he failed to act soon, he attempted to persuade Sal once again. Seeing his excitement about his dream, Sal gave in and agreed. However, as a compromise, they agreed that they would only remain for another 5 years, after which they could finally return home.

Encountering Conflict Analysis

Conflict with the environment

The harsh Australian landscape was a difficult place for Thornhill to adapt to. The ‘sad scrabbling place’ [pg 75] was a dramatic difference to the hustle and bustle of England. He viewed the sunlight ‘pouring out of the sky…like being struck in the face’ as though the environment loathes his presence on the land. His lack of belonging is exemplified by his physical inability to

Another aspect of the environment were the natives who made explicit to the settlers that they are unwelcome in the Australian land. The Sydney Gazette newspaper recorded occasional spearing of settlers, which was enough to elicit fear from the intruders, including Thornhill and his family. The vulnerability of the settlers is

Interpersonal conflict:

Sal and Thornhill

Although Thornhill eventually began to find a passion towards possessing

Blackwood and Smasher

The values of both men were completely different. Smasher evidently had no respect for the natives since he brutally dismantles their bodies without regret, ‘they were hands cut off at the wrist. The skin was black against the white of the bone’ [pg 103]. Conversely, Blackwood shows more compassion and appreciation towards the natives, ‘ain’t nothing in this world just for the taking…a man got to pay a fair price for taking…Matter of give a little, take a little’ [pg 104]. This difference between the two men’s perspectives created a great barrier of tension that was distinct to Thornhill.

Key Passages

Inner Conflict

‘Shouting beat at his ears…Sal, he started, but the word turned into a choked gasp like a sob.’ [pg 76-77]

‘He nodded as if he was thinking about home, and when she leaned across the table to take his face in her hands and kiss him, he kissed her back hard enough to surprise her…Even then, he watched his hand trembling as he signed the paper.’ [pg 116-117]

Conflict with land

‘It all had an odd unattached look, the bits of ground cut up into squares in this big loose landscape, a broken-off chip of England resting on the surface of the place…But it was the only sad thing in the whole world.’ [pg 80-81]

‘By and by, the Thornhill’s told themselves, they would have enough put aside to go back to London…A little luck, a deal of hard work: with those, nothing could stop them.’ [pg 86-87]

Conflict between natives and settlers

‘But sometimes men were speared…On land he was always within range of a spear.’ [pg 93]

Conflict between Sal and Thornhill

‘Couple of years of the packet trade we’ll pay the lot back, she said…The calculation in his mind was how soon he could get set up in the Hawkesbury trade, so that it would be the most logical thing in the world to need a base on the river: in short, when he would be able to stand on that point of land and know it was his.’ [pg 116-117]

Important Quotes

Conflict with land

‘Now it was called Sydney Cove, and it had only one purpose: to be a container for those condemned by His Majesty’s courts.’ [pg 75]

‘Shouting beat at his ears. A sun such as he had not imagined could exist was burning through the thin stuff of his slops. Now on land, he was seasick again, feeling the ground swell under him, the sun hammering down on his skull, that wicked glinting off the water.’ [pg 76]

‘It all had an odd unattached look, the bits of ground cut up into squares in this big loose landscape, a broken off chip of England resting on the surface of the place.’ [pg 80]

‘How could air, water, dirt and rocks fashion themselves to become so outlandish?’

‘The place was like nothing he had ever seen.’

‘It was easier to turn to the familiar, this speck of England laid out within the forest.’ [pg 82]

‘Their hut swarmed with creatures they had never seen before: bold lizards that eyed them unblinkingly, sticky black flies, lines of ants that could reduce a lump of sugar to nothing in a night, mosquitoes that could sting through cloth, creatures along the lines of a bedbug that buried their heads in skin and swelled with human blood.’ [pg 87]

Resolution with land

‘A chaos opened up inside him, a confusion of wanting. No one had every spoken to him of how a man might fall in love with a piece of ground. Now one had ever spoken o how there could be this teasing sparkle and dance of light among the threes, this calm clean space that invited feet to enter it.’ [pg 106]

‘He could not forget the quiet ground beyond the screen of reeds and mangroves and the gentle swelling of that point, as sweet as a woman’s body.’ [pg 121]

Conflict with gentry

‘I am Thornhill, he called, hearing his voice cracked and small.’ [pg 76]

‘His Majesty’s mercy, saving so many from the noose, was made possible by this ingenious and thrifty scheme.’ [pg 78]

‘With a sick lurch he remembered the hammock, the knot in the beam above his head, an always-open eye watching him while he woke or slept.’ [pg 80]

‘Men came from all the streets around, cheered to watch this black insect of a man capering before them, a person lower in the order of things even than they were.’ [pg 92]

Thornhill’s inner conflict

‘It was a piercing hunger in his guts: to own it. To say mine, in a way he had never been able to say mine of anything at all. He had not known until this minute that it was something he wanted so much.’ [pg 106]

‘He had taken it as being another thing in the world that was just for gentry. Nothing that had ever been promised to him.’ [pg 108]

‘That place was a dream that might shrivel if put into words.’

‘…the W and the T stood out

Sal’s inner conflict

‘I’ll take it back to Pickle Herring Stairs by and by…right back where it

‘Thornhill noticed that Sal never ventured beyond the few streets of the township, dusty and muddy by turns.’

Conflict between Thornhill and Sal

‘They had never disagreed on anything that mattered.’ [pg 111]

‘Couple years is all, Will, then we’ll be right. Home, Will, imagine that!’ [pg 116]

‘But he was not thinking about how soon they could go Home. The calculation in his mind was how soon he could get set up in the Hawkesbury trade, so that it would be the most logical thing in the world to need a base on the river: in short, when he would be able to stand on that point of land and know it was his.’ [pg 116 -117]

Conflict between natives and convicts

‘On land he was always within range of a spear.’ [pg 93]

‘The Gazette had a handy expression that covered all the things the blacks did, and suggested others: outrages and depredations. Not a month went by without some new outrage or depredation.’ [pg 95]

‘One thing you best know, only time we see them is when they want us to.’ [pg 102]

‘The face was unrecognizable as a face, the only thing clear the yeallow ear of corn stuck between the pink sponge that had been the lips.’ [pg 104]

‘Not a matter of ask up here mate…Get your backside on a bit of ground, sit tight. That’s all the asking you got to do.’ [pg 105]

Chapter 4: A Clearing in the Forest

Plot

In the year of 1813, the family made their move to Thornhill’s Point. During their first day, Willie and Thornhill began to plant a cornfield to mark their territory. When they realised that someone had already dug the soil before them, Thornhill’s dreams collapsed, believing that someone else had already claime the land. He then noticed that the ‘dirt was not dug in a square, the way a man with a pick would do’ [pg 140] and lightly exclaimed that it may be ‘wild hogs or such’ [pg 141]. However, both Thornhill and Willie silently acknowledged that it very might well have been a native’s work.

Later that day, Thornhill grew aware of two natives watching him. Although a language barrier prevented conversation, it was clear from the native’s actions that the Thornhill’s were unwelcomed on their land. Thornhill offered them pork as a peace offering only to have the natives throw the food to the ground in disgust. Determined to maintain his area, Thornhill slapped one of the men but the consequential sound of spears lifted in the forest frightened the family. Having established their point, the two men returned into the forest. That night, Thornhill’s brave façade, ‘they gone and buggered off now’ [pg 148] is engulfed in his silent fear.

Despite the native’s warning, throughout the next few weeks the Thornhill’s built a home for themselves. Thornhill noticed for the first time that Sal quietly suffered from loneliness, and that even Sullivan’s visit during their fourth week was comforting for her. For Sal’s sake, Thornhill invited others neighbours to visit. There was Birtles, also known as

Knowing that he had a large sum left to pay off his vessel, Hope, Thornhill applied for convict servants to be assigned to him. On the day when a new fleet of convicts arrived, Thornhill once again encountered Captain Suckling, who had been present during Thornhill’s arrival to New South Wales. Although Thornhill had become an emancipist, Suckling continued to regard him with contempt. Thornhill chose Ned and Dan, the latter was pleased to see Thornhill since they had worked together back in England. However, Thornhill was uninterested reuniting his friendship with Dan as he wished to distinguish himself from the convicts. As a result, he blankly rebuked Dan to call him, Mr Thornhill, thus respecting his new employer.

The next day, he watched the men slaving away and ‘remembered how it felt to be sweating and panting’ [pg 180] but felt triumphant in that he had the authority to refuse their pleas for water. Thornhill continued to coerce the men to work under the harsh sun, wearing his ‘superior Suckling smile’ [pg 178].

Everyday Sal would mark the same tree, counting down the days until they could return to England, as Thornhill had promised. Thornhill felt the gulf between them, for he was keeping her prisoner of his dreams – to make a living on Thornhill’s Point. Soon after, Sal fell ill. No doctor would come and inspect her regardless of Thornhill’s ability to pay because she was ‘only the wife of an emancipist’ [pg 183]. Only their neighbour, Mrs Herring, came to care for her. Sal, who did not appear to fear death, informed Thornhill to face her towards England if she were to die. Although Thornhill blamed himself for her lack of proper health care, even in spite of her illness, he ‘could not make himself say the words he knew she longed to hear: we will go Home’ [pg 184]. Fortunately, after many visitors and remedies, Sal did recover. Thornhill was grateful but disappointed to know that her first thoughts were whether or not the marks on the tree had been kept up to date.

Encountering Conflict Analysis

Peoples’ reactions to conflict

As shown from the gathering at Thornhill’s point, ‘the blacks seemed all anyone could talk about’ [pg 164]. Every person in the neighbourhood had been affected by his or her own encounter with the natives. While the general consensus was that the natives were ‘thieving buggers’ [pg 167], people’s reactions to their stolen belongings were varied. While Smasher took liberty to punish the natives, as shown in The Secret River – London, where he dehumanised them by creating a scarecrow with a native’s body, Mrs Herring approaches the situation with more compassion, allowing them to ‘help themselves now and then’ [pg 166]. By comparison, Loveday used his experience with the natives to elicit laughter from the crowd, since he eagerly anticipated ‘return[ing] to England where a man could attend to the call of nature without getting a spear up his backside.’ [pg 165] Although all members of the crowd experience tension with the natives, their different responses to the conflict sets them apart from one another.

Sal and Thornhill’s conflict

Sal’s undivided love for Thornhill compelled her to agree with Thornhill’s proposal of five years in their new residence. Though she never complained nor voiced resent, her silent personal conflict with the environment is irrefutable through her daily markings on the tree. Her routine effort to record each passing day highlights the desperation to return ‘home.’

Additionally, Sal ‘never spoken of her loneliness’ [pg 157], which demonstrated her courage and resilience while supporting her husband’s goal. Even Smasher’s presence was comforting for her, which was a shock to Thornhill. Although Thornhill realised the extent to which Sal suffered in the new environment, for they were seemingly even further away from England, he could not bring himself place her desire before his – to return to England. Tragically, his yearning for a successful life on Thornhill’s point was more important than Sal’s wish even when she was ill and at the face of death.

Conflict with social hierarchy

Although Thornhill advanced from a slave to emancipist, his battle with social status still continued. Amused at the thought of controlling two men’s lives in his own felon hands, ‘he had pictured how he would stride and point at the men he wanted,’ [pg 174] much alike the gentry he had enviously viewed from the distance for all his life. He promptly and readily falls into the role of gentry, displaying his own ‘superior Suckling smile’ [pg 178] while enjoying the new authority he exerts upon the ‘life and death’ [pg  177] of Dan and Ned. It was a pleasure for Thornhill to be a part of the ‘gentry’ he had so despised for it shifted him away from the past he was so desperate to escape and into the new legitimate

While Thornhill enjoyed the role of gentry, Captain Suckling was a brutal reminder of Thornhill’s past. Suckling’s treatment of him, as ‘he shooed Thornhill away with both hands as if he were a dog’ [pg 173] reinforced that Thornhill would always be the felon from England many years ago, regardless of his position in the present. This showed that Thornhill, try as he might, would never be a part of the gentry, since he could not shred the imprint of history. The fact that Thornhill needed to make ‘himself stony’ [pg 172] demonstrated how Suckling’s contempt was freshly painful for the Thornhill who had come so far since being a convict, yet would always have a ‘felon’s face.’

Key Passages

Thornhill’s inner conflict with owing land

‘He took off his hat with an impulse to feel the air around his head…It was astonishing how little it took to own a piece of the earth.’ [pg 133-134]

‘He had dreamed of this place, had allowed himself to love it too soon…It flew briefly, weighted by its root, and fell back into the dirt.’ [pg 140-141]

Thornhill’s inner conflict as a convict

‘He knew what it was like to be Dan…There, and only there, a man did not have to drag his stinking past around behind him like a dead dog.’ [pg 175-176]

Conflict between Aboriginals and convicts

‘Then he saw that he was being watched by two black men…the next there was only the forest, and a bird trilling as if nothing had happened.’ [pg 146-147]

‘They had scalped two men alive up at South Creek, he said, and taken a child from its cradle, slit its little throat and sucked it dry…Smasher had filled the place with noise, but he had left behind its mirror-image, a silence in which his violent stories echoed.’ [pg 157-158]

Conflict between gentry and convicts: Suckling and Thornhill

‘It was a nasty surprise to find that Captain Suckling, late of the convict transport Alexander, was down on the wharf in his silver buttoned waistcoat…It seemed that a man had to go on paying.’ [pg 172-173]

Conflict between gentry and convicts: Thornhill and Dan/Ned

‘Thornhill had looked forward to this moment…You would do well to remember.’ [pg 174-175]

Important Quotes

Thornhill’s inner conflict with owing land

‘It was a place of promise to him now, the blank page on which a man might write a new life.’ [pg 130]

‘His own. His own, by virtue of his foot standing on it.’ [pg 133]

‘My place, Thornhill’s place.’ [pg 139]

‘Ain’t nothing to me if it’s dead or alive, he said breezily. Long’s it says William Thornhill got here first.’ [pg 149]

Thornhill’s inner conflict with his past

‘He saw what he had never seen before: that there could be no future for the Thornhill’s back in London.’ [pg 175]

‘The Hawkesbury was the one place where no man could set himself up as better than his neighbour.’ [pg 176]

Conflict with land

‘…only a laughing jackass hidden in the trees, its mockery coming clear over the water to the family in the boat.’ [pg 127]

‘He [Thornhill] had to fight the feeling that the place was mocking him.’ [pg 132]

‘While [Sal] went on sitting in the boat she was, in a manner of speaking, attached to the place she had come from.’ [pg 135]

‘His voice had no resonance in this air. He cleared his throat to cover the puny sound.’ [pg 153]

‘Even at dawn the sun was an enemy to avoid and by mid-morning the inside of the hut was unendurable.’ [pg 182]

‘It seemed she was not afraid of death or pain, but was filled with terror of being buried in this thin foreign soil, under the blast of this other sun, of her bones rotting away under those hard scraping trees.’ [pg 184]

Conflict between Aboriginals and convicts

‘…but in Sal’s silence he heard her knowledge that the blacks did not have to be seen to be present.’ [pg 128]

‘In some sideways part of his brain there was an image of getting into the pocket himself, in the warm and the dark, and curling up safe.’ [pg 142-143]

‘My place now…you got all the rest.’ [pg 144]

‘In the scheme of things, he was surely an insignificant splinter of this whole immense place.’

‘There were too many people here, and too little language to go around.’ [pg 146]

‘…the figure became nothing more than a couple of angled branches.’ [pg 152]

‘They’s vermin…the same way rats is vermin.’ [pg 164]

‘Riding the Hope as hard as it would go down the coast, he was haunted by what a frail figure Sal had been, standing on the rise and bravely waving.’ [pg 171]

Conflict between Thornhill and Sal

‘But he could see that to his wife it seemed harsh and unlovely, nothing but a sentence to be endured.’ [pg 130]

‘But seeing it through her eyes, Thornhill knew what a flimsy home it was. By contrast, the hut housing the sign of the Pickle Herring had been as sold as St Paul’s.’ [pg 135]

‘His blind passion for a piece of land had let him leapfrog over this in his mind: Sal here, making a life where only the flicker of their own fire was human.’ [pg 136]

‘Like any other prisoner, she had a place – the smooth bark of a tree near the tent – where she marked off each day.’ [pg 150]

‘The thing about having things unspoken between two people, he was beginning to see, was that when you had set your foot along that path it was easier to go on than to go back.’ [pg 155]

‘Hated himself, for bringing her here.’ [pg 183]

‘But even in this moment, when the thought of life without her was a blank like death itself, he could not make himself say the words he knew she longed to hear: we will go Home.’ [pg 184]

‘But he had to work to keep the disappointment off his face that the marks on the tree were her first thought.’ [pg 185]

Sal’s inner conflict: fear of the Aboriginals

‘She was afraid of the children wandering and being lost in the forest, and in the absence of anything to function as a fence she tethered Bub and Johnny to the tally-tree on long ropes.’ [pg 151]

Sal’s inner conflict: with loneliness

‘Thornhill saw for the first time how much she missed having people around her.’ [pg 157]

‘She had never spoken of her loneliness.’ [pg 157]

Conflict between Blackwood and other convicts

‘There was an authority about him so that even boastful

‘Give a little, take a little.’ [pg 169]

Conflict between gentry and convicts: Suckling and Thornhill

‘[Suckling] flicked about himself importantly with the handkerchief.’ [pg 172]

‘I never forget a felon’s face…his voice was rich with satisfaction.’

‘Suckling snorted and flinched.’ [pg 173]

‘He had thought then that it was all apart of the price a boy paid for getting up in the world.’

‘He had pictured how he would stride and point at the men he wanted. But he hung back now, so he would not have to face Suckling’s smirk.’ [pg 174]

‘He might be entitled to stand in power over him, but in the eyes of men like Suckling, he and Dan Oldfield were the same.’ [pg 175]

Conflict between gentry and convicts: Surgeon and Thornhill

‘Sal was only the wife of an emancipist.’ [pg 183]

Conflict between gentry and convicts: Thornhill and Dan/Ned

‘He thought of the way Suckling smiled, not showing any teeth, and tried it himself.’ [pg 175]

‘His own pleasure in it, as he had bullied Dan on the wharf, had come as a surprise to Thornhill: he had not known that he had it in him to be a tyrant.’ [pg 177]

‘Thornhill felt his mouth shaping that superior Suckling smile.’ [pg 178]

‘He realised now how begging made a man ugly and hardly human: easy to refuse.’ [pg 180]

Chapter 5: A Hundred Acres

Plot

After almost a year of settling in, stories of the natives’ violence continued. On one trip back from Sydney, Thornhill saw trouble had reached his home when Willie ran ‘down towards him from the hut, his hair wild, his face twisted with yelling’ [pg 191]. To his relief, Sal explained that the natives had come the day before, but no one was harmed. Yet he was determined to settle the feud, and ‘set off towards the smoke’ where the natives isolated themselves from the foreigners.

He discovered two naked women by the fire, and while he was ashamed to look at another woman’s body, the women appeared to be comfortable in their skins. Thornhill then realised that a group of men where watching him. Bravely, he acted as though he was the host, and the natives were his guests on his land. He asserted that ‘this [place is] mine now. Thornhill’s place’ [pg 196]. Yet one of the natives, the same one Thornhill had slapped on his first day, illustrated through his body language and vocals that Thornhill was an intruder on their land. Although no ‘conversation had taken place’ [pg 197], Thornhill understood that both sides would be unfaltering, and that the dispute was far from over.

Once at home, Thornhill made light of his encounter, assuring Sal that everything was fine. Secretly, he hoped that ‘the sky would be empty of their smoke’ [pg 198], but every morning his wish was never fulfilled. With his long-term exposure to the natives, Thornhill realised that the natives were not indistinguishable from one another because of their black skin, but instead, he found that could tell them apart easily. He named the old man Whisker Harry, the man he had slapped was Long Bob, and a younger man Black Dick – names that made them appear more like friendly neighbours. Although the men never came close to Thornhill and his men, the women befriended Sal. The women enjoyed showing each other their cultural utilities and clothing, and Sal often exchanged her belongings for the natives’ odd and interesting items. However, Thornhill spotted the women later on mocking Sal, for one of the natives was modeling the bonnet with a ‘lizard dangling from…her stuck-out arse’ [pg 202], something he did not wish Sal to see.

Sal shared with Thornhill that Mrs Herring had advised that they should anticipate frequent visits from the natives. At Sal’s behest, Thornhill visited Blackwood in order to learn from those experienced with residing in the area. Upon arrival at Blackwood’s  [pg 210]. At home, Thornhill only shared his encounter with Sal, who came to the conclusion that they were on their own in figuring out how to deal with the natives.

Meanwhile, Dick had his own jobs around the home, while Bub helped his older brother. After completion of his

Upon arrival, Thornhill saw that Dick was mesmerised Long Bob creating a fire with sticks. With a fire burning, Long Bob’s expression spoke ‘match that, white man’ [pg 213]. However, Thornhill approached Long Bob with humour, ‘Me, Thornhill.’ The natives began to laugh after a comment from Long Jack. Finding comfort in knowing that ‘there won’t be no stopping us…pretty soon there

Compared to the natives, the Thornhills were unfamiliar with how to hunt, resulting

Thornhill’s trade had success in the six months he had resided at Thornhill’s Point. He had regular customers, one of whom was Smasher Sullivan. On one trip, Smasher shared oysters with Thornhill, for his area was rife with them.  A

Encountering Conflict Analysis

Dick and Thornhill

Raised in Australia for most of his life, Dick possessed different values towards the natives than his family. Regardless of their cultural and language differences, it is clear that Dick surpassed this barrier and accepted the natives as humans who merely had different coloured skin. Unlike majority of settlers, he viewed the natives as true neighbours; people whose company he could enjoy. The Thornhills conflict with the natives however, was blatant enough for Dick to comprehend that he was not supposed to interact with the natives. Due to the divide between the families, Dick would often sneak off in order to evade conflict with his parents. While Thornhill struggled to understand why Dick spent time with ‘them primitives’ [pg 216], Sal explained that they had Rotherlithe, a special place they used go when they were younger. Dick on the other hand ‘ain’t got no Rotherhithe to go to. He never even heard of the place.’ With this knowledge in mind, after Dick’s punishment and then discovering his son’s attempt to mimic the natives’ technique of creating a fire, instead of reigniting the conflict between the two, Thornhill aimed to amend his relationship with his son. Nevertheless, Thornhill reflected that Dick ‘was still a stranger to his father’ [pg 219], for their values and beliefs were a world apart.

Conflict with the land

Although they had settled in Australia for a few years, the Thornhills, like other settlers, had not truly adapted to the land. With an absence of hunting skills, they resulted to consuming bland, dry pork each night for dinner. The settlers had become accustomed to a civilised society, both in England and the colony. As a result, they possessed a lack of knowledge about the natural world. This was in contrast to the natives, who were consistently seen carrying different animals, proof of their expertise in regards to the land and its animals. As Thornhill observed, the natives devoted little time to their work each day, compared to the settlers who would work throughout the day, and often still, many stories of failed crops emerged. The natives’ connection with the land is also shown when the native at Smasher’s skiff flaunted how easily he could open the oyster whereas Smasher, a man who regularly devoured oysters, was yet to have mastered the trick. This emphasised that while the settlers may have declared their right to the land, they could never appreciate the environment like the natives.

Key Passages

Conflict between Aboriginals and convicts

“It took him a moment to see two old women by the fire. As still and dark as the ground they seemed to grow out of…they stared at each other, their words between them like a wall.” [pg 193-197]

“There were so many of them, and only the one Sal in the whole wide world…Sal’s bonnet was being modeled by the woman who had had the lizard dangling from her waist: not on her head, but on her stuck-out arse, and they were all laughing in a way he would not have wanted Sal to see.” [pg 199-202]

“Then he looked straight at Thornhill…the difference was, he never had the suspicion that Mary was mocking him.” [pg 213-215]

Blackwood’s peace with Aboriginals

“Thornhill looked, seeing no one, but Blackwood called out in response, the form of his words unclear, jammed up together, and then one o the shadows moved forward and resolved itself into a black woman…I better have got that right, Will Thornhill, and if I ain’t, by Jesus your life ain’t worth a brass farthing.” [pg 209-210]

Important Quotes

Thornhill’s inner conflict with owning land

“It felt more like when she gave him the coins every Monday to take to Mr Butler of Butler’s Buildings.” [pg 192]

“It took him some time to admit to himself that his hundred acres no longer felt quite his own.” [pg 128]

Conflict between natives and convicts

“The Governor had decreed that townships with garrisons of troops be made along the upper reaches of the river. That way, even though the blacks were frequently committing their outrages and depredations, the farmers themselves would be safe and not abandon the place.” [pg 190]

“Each time he rounded his point and saw the smoke calmly rising up out of his chimney, the fowls pecking away around the yard and the children running down the slope to meet him he felt a flush of relief.” [pg 190-191]

“He set off towards the smoke, striding along the ground like a man measuring it up. All the same, he felt naked.” [pg 193]

“Authority radiated from this naked old man like heat off a fire.” [pg 196]

“They stared at each other, their words between them like a wall.” [pg 197]

“They were never without their spears.” [pg 199]

“The thornhill household sweated away under the broiling sun, chopping and digging, and still had nothing to eat but salt pork and damper. By contast, the blacks strolled into the forest and came back with dinner hanging from heir belts.” [pg 202]

“Then he looked straight at Thornhill. It did not take any words to understand. Match that, white man.” [pg 213]

“But a man who could write his own name, William Thornhill, along a piece of paper, could not be made to look a fool by a naked savage.” [pg 214]

“His face turned in the general direction of Thornhill, but the space occupied by him was nothing more than a piece of air the shape of a man.” [pg 226]

Conflict between Thornhill and Sal

“He made a point of getting some little gift for Sal on every trip to Sydney.” [pg 190]

Conflict between gentry and convicts

“When he put [the boots] on he understood why gentry looked different. Partly it was having money in the bank, but it was also your boots telling you how to walk.” [pg 190]

“Ned and Dan both scorned the blacks, as being even lower in the scheme of things than themselves.” [pg 203]

“In the world of these naked savages, it seemed everyone was gentry.” [pg 230]

Dick’s relationship with the natives

“He had seen Dick there on a spit of san, playing with the native children, all bony legs and skinny arms shiny like insects, running in and out of the water. Dick was stripped off as they were, to nothing but skin.” [pg 211]

“He ran and called and laughed with them, and he could have been their pale cousin.”

Conflict between Thornhill and Dick

“The boy’s anxious face split into a smile. But he was still a stranger to his father.” [pg 219]

Chapter 6: Drawing a line

Plot

Things had changed at Thornhill’s point. Suddenly, groups of forty or more natives were seen, more than usual. Compared to when Thornhill first moved to the area, more natives were visible, with men carrying kangaroos back to their fire, voices constantly present and the fire burning throughout the days. Prior to their move to Thornhill’s point, Thornhill had bought a gun in fear of any potential encounters with the natives. With a sense of anticipation and dread due to the change in native’s activities, the Thornhill family became wary and cautious. Knowing that one gun was not enough to protect his family, Thornhill bought three more guns for Dan, Ned and Willie. In addition, they practiced defending themselves with spears. Even Dick, who was not yet 8 years old, could throw the spear a great distance. This frightened Thornhill, for he realised just how far a spear can travel, especially in adult hands. As each day passed, Thornhill found comfort in seeing how a mere fence could protect a home inside.

Desiring more protection, Thornhill visited Smasher to buy one of his dogs. When deciding which dog to choose inside Smasher’s home, Thornhill came across a ‘dark shape’ [pg 251] and realised it was ‘a black woman, cringing against the wall, panting so he could see the teeth gleaming in her pained mouth, and the sores where the chain had chafed, red jewels against her black skin.’ With satisfaction, Smasher shares that both he and Blackwood have been with the black woman, and offered Thornhill the chance to do so himself;  ‘For a terrible vivid instant…Thornhill imagined himself taking the woman’ [pg 252]. Disgusted with his malicious thought and Smasher’s brutal treatment, Thornhill hastily left the place, losing any desire for a dog.

After work one day, Thornhill found Smasher,

More and more ‘outrages and depredations’ [pg 260], or attacks on the settlers were emerging. Captain McCallum, on behalf of His

Once again, the group at Thornhill’s hut had converged. This time, Smasher showed the others a pair of black ears where the blood died so that it had almost turned purple. Another violent dispute between Blackwood and Smasher submerged.

Later that night, Sal suggested that they head back to England sooner, rather than the five years they had agreed on. However, Thornhill was not ready to begin his old ‘lighterman’s life’ [pg 269]. Intent on getting away from the natives, Sal proposes that they move to Wilberforce, a town where ‘blacks don’t come’ [pg 270]. Nevertheless, Thornhill reassured her that if the natives were to hurt them, they would have done so already. In his own thoughts, he wondered ‘how could he bear to go on passing in the boat and see some other man [on his land]? It would feel like giving up a child’ [pg 271].

Encountering Conflict Analysis

Conflict between natives and settlers

This chapter focuses on the overwhelming tension between the natives and settlers. Since there had been many failed attempts to between both parties to assert that the land was theirs, desperation and fear lead to a change in atmosphere. The natives formed groups in numbers that multiplied; it could be assumed that they were in the midst of preparing for some great event. Subsequently, the settlers became apprehensive of what the natives had install for them. Nevertheless, the Thornhills vowed whatever they could do in order to retain their new homes through the means of protection. Thornhill’s fear and anxiety lead him to use spears as a form of protection, even with four guns at hand. Although Thornhill was pro-settler, it is ironic that he considered the spears as defence, for he saw the brilliance behind the natives’ weapons.

Thornhill’s conflict with the natives as ‘gentry’ was a prime reason why he imagined himself taking advantage of the native woman. By doing such an act, he would be able to inflict his own power and control over the native who defenceless as she was, would have to render to his desires. This was in contrast to the group of natives, who despite Thornhill’s authority in the British colony, treated him as an intruder on their land. With the natives, Thornhill had no command,

Furthermore, when Captain McCallum announces his mission, there was a glimpse of hope among the settlers. However, upon revealing the failed mission since the natives had trapped Captain McCallum’s group, it was clear that the natives would not forgo their land as easily as the government had anticipated. The underestimation of the natives’ abilities to protect themselves only intensifies the conflict between the two cultures, with the settlers believing that they will need to take matters into their own hands.

Key Passages

Conflict between convicts

“Some sly excitement in his voice made Thornhill hesitate but Smasher edged him into the doorway…Now the evil was part of him.” [pg 251-253]

Conflict between natives and settlers / Conflict between gentry and settlers

“Captain McCallum, though, the narrow cleft of the place suggested other possibilities…They had fired blindly into the bushes, but three redcoats lay dead, and four others wounded, before they were able to drive the blacks away.” [pg 262-265]

Conflict between Sal and Thornhill

We maybe better go, Will, she said quietly…But not touching him, thinking her own thoughts.” [pg 269-271]

Important Quotes

Thornhill’s inner conflict

“I ain’t going back to a fisherman’s life.” [pg 269]

“He felt indignation rise up on him, pressed it back, made himself speak with no more passion than if they were discussing the weather.” [pg 269]

“He was talking about the most unimportant thing in the world.” [pg 270]

“He could not turn his back on this place. How could he bear to go on passing in the boat and see some other man in there? It would feel like giving up a child.” [pg 271]

Fear of the natives

“The hut had become a compressed cube of fear.” [pg 241]

“…Thornhill remembered the nights in Newgate, listening to the beating of his own heart, not able to stop himself waiting for the next beat, the next, and the next, and trying not the wonder how many heartbeats he had left.” [pg 243]

“It was too much like being in a coffin deep in the earth.” [pg 242]

“Thornhill stood behind the tree, feeling drawn deep into the sound, the beat of the sticks like the pumping of his own heart.” [pg 245]

“This was the moment to realise how far a spear could travel, even when thrown by a skinny boy not yet eight years old. That could wipe the smile right off a man’s face.” [pg 249]

“Nothing remained that any man could hide behind.”

The natives and environment

“Jack was no longer a man, but a kangaroo made human.” [pg 243]

Conflict between natives and settlers

“…they would be pincushions, if that was they way the blacks wanted it.” [pg 246]

“…He did not hear [Sal] humming any more, and came across her sometimes staring at nothing, a crease between her eyebrows. When the women trailed past the hut on their way into the forest, she waved and smiled, but kept her distance.” [pg 247]

“They had fired blindly into the bushes, but three redcoats lay dead, and four others wounded, before they were able to drive the blacks away.” [pg 265]

“The black natives of the colony have manifested a strong and sanguinary spirit of animosity and hostility towards the British inhabitants.” [pg 266]

Conflict between Sal and Thornhill

“But not touching him, thinking her own thoughts.” [pg 271]

Dick’s relationship with natives

“It was easy to see it was not the first time Dick had thrown a spear, or even the twenty-first or the hundred and first.” [pg 249]

Conflict between the settlers

“One white man to another.” [pg 251]

“Thining the thought, saying the words, would make him the same as Smasher, as if Smasher’s mind had got into his when he saw the woman in the hut and felt that instant of temptation. He had done nothing to help her. Now the evil was part of him.” [pg 253]

Conflict with the land

“There was this about it, though: no matter how much a man did in this place, the everlasting forest could not be got rid of.” [pg 250]

“…it was obvious what a frail and porous thing the hut was. The bulge of the ridge dwarfed it and the breeze smothered the sounds of the people sitting in their hot yellow bubble.” [pg 254]

Chapter 7: The Secret River

Plot

After the attack on Spider’s home, the family had abandoned the area and returned to Sydney. During a trip past Spider’s old home, Thornhill felt an ‘impulse’ [pg 275] to visit the area. Believing that the area would be deserted, he was shocked to see a dead man, ‘his mouth ajar, his chin crusted where he had vomited’ [pg 276]. He heard a groan, and realised it was a boy around Dick’s age, who was choking on his vomit, with flies ‘crawling on his face’. Thornhill however, only stated that ‘ain’t nothing I can do for you, lad’ [pg 277]. Walking away from the bodies, ‘he knew that he would not tell anyone what he had seen…he was going to lock away in the closed room in his memory, where he could pretend it did not exist.’

When he arrived home, he discovered the natives stealing their corn. Even with his presence, the natives ignored him, continuing to break off cobs. A struggle between Thornhill and multiple women ensued, though Thornhill was stronger than all. With his gun now pointed, the natives began to run back into the forest. Long Jack however, turned and his expression dared Thornhill to use the gun. Thornhill fired a shot, and when he opened his eyes there was no one in sight, leaving the family behind. Then, Dan dragged across a native boy, around Dick’s age who struggled against Dan’s grip. Dan urged Thornhill to use the boy as bait so they could lure the natives out into the open, and then kill them. However, seeing that the boy may be the brother of the one at Darkey Creek, Thornhill refused letting the boy go. The next day, the assessed damage was six months of hard work. The family were part of an ‘unspoken agreement’ [pg 284] where  ‘fear [had] slipped unnoticed into anger, as if they were one and the same’ [pg 285].

Against Thornhill’s protests, Sal insisted on trepassing the native’s camp, just like how the family had been intruded. Once realising that they also used a broom like Sal to keep their home clean, a place to eat their food and a designated place to light their fires, Sal realised that the land would always belong to the natives. With this epiphany, Sal insisted on leaving Thornhill’s Point that very same day, ‘while we still got the chance’ [pg 288]. Refusing to give up his hard work, Thornhill and Sal lunged into a dispute. Dan interrupted exclaiming that Saggity’s place was burning down. Although Thornhill raised his hand to slap Sal, she was fearless, boldly stating that once Thornhill came back from Sagitty’s, the family was leaving, ‘with or without you, Will, take your pick’ [pg 291].

At Sagitty’s, Thornhill, Dan and Ned quickly realised that something was terribly wrong. The place the unusually silent with no sounds of people or dogs present. They found Sagitty’s dog, whose throat had been slit. Sagitty’s home had been completely burnt. When they found Sagitty, a spear had pierced through him in a way that his fate was already determined. Nevertheless, they rushed him onto the boat to take him to hospital. On the way, Thornhill reflected that Sal would hear about this incident, and that ‘she would leave the place without a backward glance’ [pg 295]. Knowing this, he still could not relinquish ‘knowing he was king’ of Thornhill’s Point, ‘as he would only ever be king in that place.’

Sagitty died soon after. A crowd of settlers had gathered at Maid of the River, a pub where Smasher retold the story of Sagitty’s unjustified death to all settlers, as though he had been there himself. Word had spread quickly, and Smasher insisted that the settlers sorted out the natives once and for all that very night. While everyone agreed, they needed Hope to get to the natives’ ground. Even with all his friends relying on Thornhill to provide the vessel, he hesitated. Dan however, whispered that Sal would only stay at Thornhill’s Point if the natives disappeared. Knowing this to be the truth, and with a powerful desire to retain both his wife and his land, Thornhill agreed, on the terms that ‘not a word [from] any of youse…[if] word gets out we done it, I come and slice out the tongue that blabbed’ [pg 299].

That night, the men approached the native’s camp, hidden by the forest. When the first native was spotted, the first shot was taken. Everyone simultaneously began to shoot as more natives were identified. One woman’s head was sliced off with a sword. The natives swiftly retaliated using their spears as weapons. Thornhill noted how ‘things had moved fast…he pointed his gun at blacks as they ran but the muzzle was always too late’ [pg 305]. Blackwood who had just reached the massacre aimed his own gun at Smasher, demanding that Smasher ‘back away.’ Disregarding Blackwood’s words, Smasher instead propelled Blackwood to the ground with his whip. Meanwhile, Thornhill tried taking his own shot at a Whisker Harry ‘but nothing happened.’ He watched as Whisker Harry’s spear struck Smasher in his chest. Smasher, weak and vulnerable, repeatedly cried, ‘Jesus Christ Almighty.’ Next, a shot had fired into Whisker Harry’s stomach, who kissed the ground before his death. Many natives had been killed including Black Dick while Long Jack was still alive, even with ‘half his head shot away.’ The settlers also had casualties, including Ned and Devine from Freeman’s Reach. Blackwood was found ‘spreadeagled in the remains’ [pg 309] of a loved one, ‘his mouth an inhuman square.’ Silence replaced the violence, and Thornhill ‘could only hear his own ragged breathing’ [pg 308] while Smasher refused help from the others throughout his painful death.

Encountering Conflict Analysis

Thornhill’s relationship with the natives

While the other settlers are resolute in protecting their families and land, Thornhill’s uncertainty at the Maid of the River to involve himself in the proposed slaughter highlighted an alteration in his view of the natives. Perhaps it was due to Dick’s interaction with the natives, who had accepted Dick’s company during their activities. Through the incident with Dick, Thornhill may have realised how, regardless of their colour and language, they had families and went about their daily lives in a similar fashion to the settlers – work and play. Furthermore, Sal’s epiphany may have instilled the idea that the natives had every right to the land, albeit their lack of fences. The fact that generations after generations had lived on the land illustrated to Thornhill that the settlers were indeed, intruders who had little to no right to eliminate the natives.

Sal’s turning point

Sal’s epiphany was the catalyst for Thornhill’s agreement to the genocide. As she had never moved past the boundary of their own home, her invasion of the natives’ area was the stimulus for her realisation that the natives had every right to the land. She had noticed that the natives were quite similar to the settlers in many ways, for they had set up designated areas much like rooms of a home. She realised that Australia was their home, much like Thornhill and Sal’s home in England. The natives had resided in Australia far longer than the settlers, ‘they was here…their grannies and their great grannies. All along’ [pg 288]. This turning point for Sal provided her the final push to stand her ground against Thornhill. Previously, Sal had been persuaded by Thornhill’s promises and encouragement for a short-term life at Thornhill’s Point. Instead, she refused to listen to Thornhill’s consoling words, demanding that they leave that very day. The conflict between husband and wife reached a complete divide, with Sal’s epiphany driving a wedge between their relationship.

Key Passages

“One blue and silver morning a week after the attack on Webb, the Hope glided past Darkey Creek…That was another thing he was going to lock away in the closed room in his memory, where he could pretend it did not exist.” [pg 275-278]

“Next morning Dick came running up to the hut, his feet flickering up the dust as he ran, to tell his father that the blacks were in the corn…You shut your lip, Willie, she said, and there was something in her voice that made Willie obey.” [pg 278 – 281]

“In the moment of waking he smelled the smoke…With you or without you, Will, take your pick.” [pg 285-291]

Important Quotes

Conflict between natives and settlers

“It’s like mine, he surprised himself thinking. Just the same colour as my own.” [pg 280]

“…a great shocked silence hanging over everything.” [pg 309]

Conflict with social hierarchy

“His voice was rich with the pleasure of being able to shout to another person.” [pg 282]

“For knowing he was a king, as he would only ever be king in that place.” [pg 295]

Fear of the natives

“He heard the false authority in his voice, whipped away by the breeze.” [pg 284]

“That was another thing he was going to lock away in the closed room in his memory, where he could pretend it did not exist.” [pg 278]

Conflict can change

“…fear could slip unnoticed into anger, as if they were one and the same.” [pg 285]

Thornhill’s conflict with owning land

“For a moment Thornhill tired to imagine it: turning his back on that clearing carved out of the wilderness by months of sweat.” [pg 288]

“…nothing would console him for the loss of that point of land the shape of his thumb. For the light in the mornings, slanting in through the trees. For the radiant cliffs in the sunset and the simple blue of the sky. For the feeling of striding out over ground that was his own.” [pg 295]

Conflict with Australian environment

“The door would be the first to go, and then the creeping things would move back in: the snakes, the lizards, the rats. The corn patch would sprout fresh grass that the kangaroos would come down and nibble at, knowing the rails of the fences apart. In no time at all, it would be as if the Thornhills had never called it theirs.” [pg 295]

“Every tree, every leaf, every rock seemed to be watching.” [pg 308]

Thornhill’s conflict with his actions

“Like the old man on his knees he felt he might become something other than a human, something that did not do things in this sticky clearing that could never be undone.” [pg 308]

“It seemed impossible that anyone with such a thing in his flesh could go on living.”

Sal’s turning point

“He realised that this was further than she had gone before.” [pg 286]

“They was here…their grannies and their great grannies. All along.” [pg 288]

“They are…out there now this very minute. Watching us, biding their time.”

“They ain’t going nowhere…they ain’t never going. And makr my words, Will, they’ll get us in the end if we stop here.”

Conflict between Thornhill and Sal

“All I know is, better even Butler’s bloody Buildings than creep around the rest of our lives waiting for a spear in the back.” [pg 290]

“With you or without you, Will, take your pick.” [pg 291]

“She would leave the place without a backward glance.” [pg 295]

Chapter 8: Thornhill's Place

Plot

Although ten years passed since the massacre, much of the natural environment around Hawkesbury River remained the same. Since there was ‘no more trouble from the blacks’ [pg 314], new settlers began to develop along the river, populating the bank. The new settlers included Millikin, a man who inhabited Smasher’s old land and Benjamin Jameson, who now owned Mrs Webb’s land. With many new faces along the river, only Mrs Herring from the old group remained.

During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Hope and a new vessel Sarah, which had cost three hundred pounds. Since they had become so endowed with money, Thornhill and Sal were commonly known as the ‘king’ and ‘queen’ of the river.

A villa was built for Thornhill, named Cobham Hall. However, the place ‘was not quite what Thornhill had pictured’ as the pieces of the home fitted oddly together. For instance, Thornhill had statues identical to the on the gateposts at Christ Church he had seen when he was younger, to place along his own gates. However, when they arrived, the

Meanwhile, Sal stopped making marks on the tree, realising that Home was only a distant idea, something that neither she nor Thornhill would return to.  Instead, she made Australia her home, with the help of Thornhill who showered her with furniture, clothes and, a girl to cook and clean. He also bought her a pair of green silk slippers, finding his own private humour in reminiscence of the girl who showed her leg ‘to the boatman’ [pg 30] back in Thames. Both led a slow life, Sal growing stout and Thornhill’s calluses on his hands gradually disappearing.

Although at

Though the massacre scared off

At each sunset, Thornhill would sit on a wooden bench and observe the environment around him. Although he had ultimately found success in building a home that he could call his own, he noticed that nothing around him was changed by his presence. This included the flora and fauna, and even the ‘harsh whistle of the breeze in the river oaks’ [pg 331]. He felt that although white settlement had increased dramatically, the natives had retained their connection with the land, a place where ‘in the intricate landscape that defeated any white man’ [pg 333]. A sense of penance for his treatment of the natives was expressed by his dread that it is ‘too late, too late’ [pg 334] to repair the damages. Each night, he ‘sat on, watching, into the dark’ in a desperate search to find some ‘measure of peace.’

Encountering Conflict Analysis

Thornhill’s inner conflict

Despite all his success, Thornhill began to feel a sense of unforgiving guilt for his treatment of the natives. He is considered the richest man in the area, a dream desired since he was a child in poverty. Yet his accomplishment came at a cost, for his family and himself. He no longer spoke to Dick and his relationship with Sal grew apart. Furthermore, Thornhill’s unresolved conflict with the natives is conveyed through his encounter with Long Jack. He offers Jack help in hope of reconciliation between the two.

Everyday

Conflict between the natives and settlers

The divide between the settlers and natives was prominent and after the

Conflict with the land

Thornhill’s alienation from the environment also illustrates his unresolved conflict with the land. Although Thornhill built a ‘foursquare, immovable…estate’ [pg 330], he acknowledged that his home was insignificant against the great Australian backdrop. Even though he aimed to perfect his home, there was always something at fault, ‘some [things] were too big, others too small’ [pg 315]. Thornhill believed that the land was ‘creased and furrowed’, as though it was dissatisfied at his presence. However, the land was home to the natives since they blended into the forest as though they were a part of

Conflict with social hierarchy

With his prosperity, Thornhill was well aware that he was subject to other

Key Passages

Thornhill’s guilt

“The finished place was not quite what Thornhill had pictured…He knew it was there, and his children might remember, but his children’s children would walk about on the floorboards, and never know what was beneath their feet.” [pg 316]

“A penance, it had occurred to Thornhill…it was as if the dirt was consolation.” [pg 327-329]

“As each day ended he sat in his

Important Quotes

Thornhill’s conflict with owning land

“It was not called Darkey Creek now, but Thornhill’s Creek.” [pg 314]

Thornhill’s inner conflict with his past actions

“Thornhill remembered hunger well enough. He though a man who had once known hunger would never forget it.” [pg 328]

“…he sat on here felt at times like a punishment.” [pg 333]

“This bench, here, where he could overlook all his wealth and take his easer, should have been the reward.” [pg 334]

“Too late, too late.”

“…he sat on, watching, into the dark.”

Conflict with social hierarchy

“William Thornhill was something of a king.” [pg 314]

“His wife had become something of a queen, celebrated for her Christmas entertainments, complete with Chinese lanterns and string bands.”

“Thornhill had never grown tired of being called Mr Thornhill. Never heard it without a pulse of pleasure.”

“He had the Watch your step, you are .” [pg 316]

“He knew that feeling now: the feeling that whatever a man wanted, he could have.”

“The complicated satisfaction it gave him was something he did not try to share with her.” [pg 318]

“He had so often been on the wrong side of such a wall.”

“He had never ridden himself, but he had made sure his children were taught to sit a horse the way the gentry did.” [pg 330]

Resolution of conflict with social hierarchy

“The pads of muscle around his shoulders were growing soft and the calluses on his hands, that he had always thought he would take to his grave, were nothing more than a thickening of the skin.” [pg 320]

Conflict between natives and convicts

“There was nothing that a man might hide behind.” [pg 315]

“That wall – higher than a man, and with only one gate in its perimeter – kept out everything except what was invited in.” [pg 318]

“A person was entitled to draw any picture they fancied on the blank slate of this new place.” [pg 319]

“This me…my place.” [pg 329]

Conflict between Thornhill and Sal

“Sal had long since stopped marking marks on the tally-tree, and the lines she had already drawn had grown over, swallowed into the fabric of the trunk.” [pg 316]

“He let the phrase go when she used it, turning the conversation elsewhere…” [pg 317]

“He did not spell out to her what they both knew: that they were never going to return to that Home.”

“…things that remained unasked between them, and unanswered.” [pg 318]

“…a space of silence between husband and wife.” [pg 324]

“he had not thought that words unsaid could come between two people like a body of water.”

Conflict between Thornhill and Dick

“…Dick would not…meet his eye.” [pg 326]

“There was a moment of cold nothing where the open flesh could be seen, and then the ache came on.”

Conflict between Thornhill and Blackwood

“Blackwood would not speak to Thornhill, only sat with his head down.” [pg 325]

Conflict with the environment

“Her day became a battle against the sun that would draw the moisture out of the ground, the hot wind that would dry the leaves.” [pg 319]

“The harsh whistle of the breeze in the river-oaks, the rigid stalks of the bulrushes and the reeds, that hard blue sky: they were unchanged by the speck of New South Wales enclosed by William Thornhill’s wall.” [pg 331]

“Without the advantage of a human figure over there, it was as slippery as a mirage.” [pg 332]

“…intricate

Adaptation to the environment

“In sleepless nights it would not be that foreign river called the Thames tat they would follow down through the bends into sleep, but their own Hawkesbury.” [pg 317]

“Sal had never said it in so many words, but she would not leave them, those native-born children.”

Natives’ connection with the land

“…Jack’s hand caressing the dirt. This was something he did not have: a place that was part of his flesh and spirit. There was no part of the world he would keep coming back to, the way Jack did, jus to feel it under him.” [pg 329]

“It was as if the very dirt was a consolation.”

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