Influences and experiences in The Secret River

April 1, 2019 by Essay Writer

The concept of how a person’s view of themselves can be comprised up of many influences and experiences is effectively explored throughout Kate Grenville’s The Secret River. The broad range of experiences and influences that impact upon William Thornhill’s view of himself range from both his physical and emotional experiences as well as the influences of the people surrounding him, both his family and those he meets along the way.

Initially, in making the journey from London to Sydney, Thornhill was a recognized convict and criminal, which hindered his ability to gain the status in and recognition from society that he constantly craved. He faced a duality of alienation and acceptance from the society he lived in. However, after discovering the land of Thornhill’s point and establishing a life there, he came to a metaphorical self-realization that he had not only traveled a great physical distance from London to Sydney but had also essentially traveled even further as an individual. He no longer held the view of himself as the man who was ‘silenced’, convicted and sent away to Australia, but as the man who had embraced his situation and surpassed the little expectations people above him in society had placed upon him.

As Thornhill proceeds to select two men who would work for him on Thornhill’s point, he once again has an encounter with Captain Suckling, a man who was also on the Alexander transport with him. During a conversation between the two men, Suckling metaphorically compares Thornhill to a dog in an extremely disrespectful tone after being surrounded by flies, reinforcing the idea that Thorn hill would always be considered by others a poor waterman and criminal from London, and not the wealthy landowner in Sydney he had the desire to become. The lack of self-defense that Thornhill portrays during this moment illustrates that the influences of other peoples perceptions of him diminishes his own perception of himself.

Throughout the course of the novel, Grenville continually accentuates Thornhill’s prominent desire to no longer view himself as a criminal but as a gentleman of a much higher social class compared to what he had become accustomed to in London. With this desire came a motivation to become a wealthy owner of materialistic possessions such as land, servants and a house. The constant repetition of the possessive pronoun; ‘his’ as well as the repetition and passionate tone of the word ‘mine’ towards the end of the novel solidifies the idea that he had achieved what he set out to do upon arrival in Sydney; become a wealthy landowner and homeowner. He was now officially an owner of a house, of servants and as he believes, his wife. Additionally, it is his repetition of ‘my’ as he claims the land as ‘my own’ which reinforces his hunger for power and desire to remain in Sydney. He also believes that because of all his hard work he had achieved a status high enough to be compared to a gentry in London.

Despite Thornhill achieving more wealth than any man with his poor upbringing could have ever envisioned, he remains tormented by a sense of jealousy of and inferiority to the Aboriginal people as believes he had worked harder than they did in preserving the land, but still lacked the deep connection with the land that they continued to maintain. Grenville metaphorically reinforces this concept through Thornhill believing he did not have a place that was part of his flesh and spirit like Jack did. Also being isolated by his wealth, his son, Dick, remains estranged having viewed his fathers’ brutality against the aboriginals whom he had formed a bond with as a reason to leave his family and because of this Thornhill views himself as somewhat of a pathetic man.

Therefore it can be seen from a thorough analysis of ‘The Secret River’ that Kate Grenville effectively explores the concept of how a person’s view of themselves can be comprised up of many influences and experiences. This is particularly emphasized in her exploration of William Thornhill’s perception of himself which is essentially characterized by the broad range of physical and emotional experiences he endures along with the influences of other peoples perceptions of him. These perceptions had come from both people within his family such as his son, and those who he had met throughout his journey from London to Sydney, such as Captain Suckling.

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