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Year 11 ATAR English: The Secret River

Themes

THE BASICS

GENRE - Historical fiction

 

SETTINGS - Early 1800s; the novel begins in London but the majority of the novel is set in the new British colony of New South Wales. 

 

CONFLICT - As is often the case with novel length narratives The Secret River includes main different key conflicts; two central conflicts throughout the novel are character vs society (the Thornhills against the British government system) and character vs self (William's internal conflicts over his situations, morals etc).

 

CHARACTERS - See the list below for brief overview of main and supporting characters. 

A LITTLE DEEPER

Although 200 years ago The Secret River explores issues and themes that are still very much present in contemporary Australia. Themes relating to acceptance and tolerance of difference, land rights and abuses of power. It also invites the reader to see how people deal with disenfranchisement, personal morality versus social norms as well as personal responsibility. 

The article below examines themes that are common to contemporary Australian fiction that deals with our colonial past. At times it makes specific reference to The Secret River but even if it does not, consider how the themes it identifies are present in this novel.