The Secret River Extract – Oral Report Introduction:There is one struggle in life that everybody, not only those in urban societies, but throughout history, has experienced. It is inevitable and the consequences are felt for generations. That struggle is known as conflict. The Secret River, a novel written by Australian author Kate Grenville, details the conflict between two incomparable societies. The dichotomy of the European and aboriginal cultures are foregrounded within Pages 90 – 92.
Body 1:Grenville’s incessant personification of the Aborigines’ appearance to match the land works to marginalize the nature of European culture, as “Humanising the landscape could be a way of showing the link between indigenous people and their land because, in some way that I recognized without really understanding, the country was the people. ” This notion is evident within, “The sunlight fell on the crags and slopes of his face, the eyes cast into deep shadow beneath the ridge of brow. The creases beside his mouth could have been carved in stone. Grenville’s personification and allusions to the “crags,” “slopes,” “ridge[s],” and “stone” of the land bestow upon “Scabby Bill” aspects of his own country and work to naturalise and privilege Aboriginal culture. Furthermore the differences between these two cultures are exposed through the juxtaposition of the European settlers social practices and morals. “Sal blurted out a high embarrassed laugh, and turned away from his nakedness. Thornhill saw the colour flood into her face… and smiled to see that cheeky wife of his reduced to confusion by a shameless black man. In the eyes of a colonial Australian, Scabby Bill’s nakedness is no longer apart of the land and has become an intrusion into their social practices. This stimulates a stark contrast in the cultural identity of the Aborigine and European settler societies. Body 2:Forthwith, the discourse adopted by the colonial Australian settlers throughout the extract, highlights their ethnocentric beliefs and values of white superiority, and hence foreshadows the Aborigines lower class standing in the stratification of colonial Australian society.
This is evident by the Thornhill’s exploitation of indigenous culture, “ it turned out that Scabby Bill was good for business, because for the promise of rum he could be got to dance…stamping into the dirt, thudding so the dust flew up, staggering and calling out…droning through his teeth to himself. ” The initial notion of Scabby Bill being “good for business” clearly depicts the mistreatment of the aboriginal race, as the European settlers abuse there power over the Aboriginals to attain personal prosperity and wealth, henceforth highlight the Aborigines position as “the other. This notion catalyses the construction of an empathetic attitude in a reader towards the Indigenous race, and prompts us to reject the ethnocentric values and perspectives of the colonies. Additionally, the negative connotations of “ stamping…thudding…staggering [and] droning” work in unison to create a mockery of Indigenous dance, and somewhat silence the importance of significant cultural practices in their Aboriginal culture. Likewise, the European settlers self-acclaimed superiority, is evident in the animalistic metaphor used to describe Scabby Bill. Men…cheered to watch this black insect of a man capering before them. ” The collective term ‘men’ creates the notion of a patriarchal hegemony and in conjunction with the derogatory metaphor used to describe Scabby Bill, Grenville emphasises the settlers belief that they attain a higher social standing in the stratification of colonial society. Body 3:Furthermore, Grenville foregrounds the colonial Australians preoccupation with European ideologies of ownership. The juxtaposing cultural conceptions of ownership are foreshadowed by, “In the morning Scabby Bill could be found sleeping up against the wall as if he owned it. Thornhill’s understanding is that this wall that a “naked black” man has “collapsed” across, is apart of his home, and therefor he holds all ownership. This may true, however to Scabby Bill, whose perceptions of ownership are not based around fences, walls or homes, this wall is simply a feature of the land he lives in, and therefore he has every right to sleep against it. Additionally, Scabby Bill’s perceptions of ownership are supported by, “later they always found him back again, leaning up against the wall. It is evident that Scabby Bill persistently returns to the wall, and hence, never conforms to the European ideologies of ownership. Moreover, within the extract, Grenville marginalizes the Indigenous race whilst at the same time somewhat silences the culture of the European settlers. In doing so, Grenville manages to catalyse a balance in the struggle for power and dominance between the two races, even when the colonial Australians discourse leads a reader to believe they attain dominance and superiority.
This notion is foregrounded through the negative connotations, metaphors and similes used to describe Scabby Bill, such as; “so black his skin swallowed the sunlight,” “hair frizzed as if singed. ” Likewise, the tone of mockery used to marginalize the European culture is evident within, “a tattered ribbon hanging down over one ear, one hand closed around a silk fan gone to shreds. ” Here Scabby Bill can be seen as copying the actions of a British woman with her materials.
However the state of his “tattered” and “shred[ed]” items create a satirical tone and in turn suppress the European culture. Conclusion:Conflict has the ability to cause both favourable and unpleasant outcomes in people’s lives. The loss of dignity, values, morals, faith and humanity can be a result of conflict but it can also provoke growth in compassion, understanding and maturity. Throughout this extract, Kate Grenville exposes the central theme of conflict, and foregrounds its consuming presence in the entirety of the novel.