Secret River - Characters
Secret River - Characters
The protagonist of the novel,
grows up among the poverty of the South End of London.
works at several backbreaking jobs before being offered a lifeline as an apprentice to the waterman, Mr. Middleton.
William finishes his apprenticeship and marries Mr. Middleton's daughter, Sal.
William works as a waterman on the Thames and, for a while, the family attains a modicum of security.
however, a month long frost and the death of Sal's parents force William to resort to theft to support his family.
He is caught trying to steal Brazil wood and sentenced to death by hanging.
After several letters of appeal, his sentence is commuted to deportation to Australia.
Despite the hardships, Australia offers William the opportunity to shed his past and build a new life for his family.
William is motivated by a deep need for security and the desire to control his own life.
His determination to forge a space for himself in this new land places him in direct opposition to the Aboriginal people and their way of life.
Sarah (Sal) Thornhill
Daughter of Mr. Middleton and wife of William Thornhill.
Sal falls in love with William when they are still children wandering the dirty streets of the South End.
She marries William at the end of his apprenticeship and gives birth to her first child, Willie.
had a relatively stable childhood,
Sal faces adversity with a sense of humor and resolve.
When William is arrested and sentenced to death, Sal organizes his appeal and gets his sentence commuted to exile.
Upon their arrival in Australia, Sal continues to support William and help him build a new life for their growing family.
she finds the expanse and wildness of the land intimidating and longs for the familiar streets of London.
Conflict arises between Sal and William as their ideas of the future diverge.
William wants to settle in Australia, while Sal wants to earn enough money to return to London and live in comfort.
Sal bears William six children: Willie, Dickie, Bub, Johnny, Mary, and Sarah.
William's second son.
Dick flourishes at Thornhill's Point, exploring the forest and the river.
befriends the tribe of Aborigines that settle temporarily on Thornhill's Point, learning to throw a spear and light a fire by rubbing two sticks together.
Dick reacts strongly to the bigotry directed toward the Aborigines.
After William's participation in the bloody dispersal of the local Aborigines, Dick leaves home to live on Thomas Blackwood's settlement up the river.
He does not speak to his father again, although he continues to visit his mother.
Along with Blackwood, Dick understands that the Aborigines are a part of the land. He appreciates their skills and their way of life
Dick rejects his father's claim to ownership and domination of the land and chooses a life that balances nature with human consumption.
An Aborigine who lives in the Sydney settlement.
Scabby Bill has abandoned his traditional culture and begs for scraps of food and rum in the settlement in Sydney.
he settlers mock him and make him dance for a drink of rum.
cabby Bill frequently begs outside William and Sal's hut, and Sal gives him food and drink to make him leave.
Scabby Bill's drunkenness and refusal to wear clothes reinforces the settlers' view of the Aborigines as savages.
He symbolizes the detrimental impact of colonialism on the Aborigines.
Long Bob/Long Jack
A member of the Aboriginal clan that settles temporarily at Thornhill's Point.
Long Jack teaches Dick Thornhill how to make a fire using two sticks and how to throw a spear.
in the battle between the settlers and the Aborigines, Long Jack takes a bullet to the side of the head.
He survives and returns regularly to Thornhill's point to claim the land as his own.
His silent and reproachful presence undermines William's sense of ownership.
he elder of the Aboriginal clan that settles temporarily at Thornhill's Point.
Whisker Harry is a venerable older man who has several run-ins with William over his claim to their land.
During the battle between the settlers and the aborigines, Whisker Harry throws the spear that kills Smasher Sullivan.
William's childhood friend.
Collarbone roams the streets of Southwark with William looking for things to steal.
Collarbone then works as a watchman at Customs House Quay.
Frequently siphons off brandy from the barrels by making little holes under the metal rings.
he is caught with the brandy and sentenced to death by hanging.
Represents the poverty in London and the other half of what may have happened to Thornhill
in poverty-stricken Southwark, his house on Swan Lane represents the security that William craves.
He offers William an apprenticeship and saves the family from starvation.
When his wife falls ill during the fateful frost, Mr. Middleton spends all of his savings on doctors and medication.
Represents the prosperity that Thornhill seeks but also show the fragility of life in london
A former convict, Thomas Blackwood runs a thriving trade between the settlement in Sydney and the farmers along the Hawkesbury river.
He hires William as second mate on his boat
Blackwood's advice to William on how to handle the Aborigines represents the struggle at the heart of the novel. Blackwood tells William, "A man got to pay a fair price for taking. Matter of give a little, take a little."
Blackwood has the greatest appreciation and knowledge of the Aborigines and their culture.
He respects the aborigines claim to the land and learns to live in harmony with them.
Blackwood speaks the local Aboriginal language and lives with an Aboriginal woman, with whom he has a child.
Blackwood never emotionally recovers from the bloody dispersal of the Aborigines.
He lets Dick Thornhill run his still and keep up the land.
Represents the peaceful, co-operative way of living in Australia
Smasher Sullivan is a mean-spirited man with a profound hatred for the Aborigines.
He believes them to be little more than savages and frequently kills them when they approach his farm.
He kidnaps Aboriginal women and keeps them as sex slaves.
Sullivan and Blackwood often clash, as Blackwood refuses to accept Sullivan's vicious treatment of the Aborigines.
When Saggity is killed after a raid on his farm by Aborigines, Sullivan convinces the other settlers that the Aborigines must all be killed.
Whisker Harry spears Sullivan during the attack on the Aborigines.
Represents Thornhill's other option; imperialism