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Conflict in The Secret River Essay


There is one struggle in life that everybody in the world has experienced, not just in todays society but throughout history that evokes emotion and always has lasting consequences, whether they are positive or negative. That struggle is known as conflict.

One display of a struggle can be shown in the Holocaust, the attempted genocide of the Jewish people during WWII that resulted in the deaths of over six million European Jews. The effects of such an enormous loss of life can still be felt today by the surviving victims and the families that lost loved ones. In one study conducted by Bower in 1996, it was found that the children of Holocaust survivors have a higher risk of developing psychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder by being exposed to their traumatised parents. This not only proves that conflict has devastating effects on those involved but also for the future generations as well.

On a smaller but no less horrific scale, the Indigenous people of Australia were massacred because the European settlers were ignorant to their unique way of life. In the novel, The Secret River, the author Kate Grenville touched on the subject by basing her massacre scene on eye witness accounts of the Waterloo Creek killings in 1838. The Waterloo Creek killings were put in motion when four white servants were found murdered. Settlers requested protection and it was given to them in the form of Major James Nunn and twenty-three mounted police. Nunn, along with his men, killed an unknown number of Indigenous Australians as well as allegedly kidnapping their women which prompted retaliation among the natives. Again Major James Nunn was put in control of the situation and violence once again erupted at Snodgrass Swamp (later known as Waterloo Creek). In a swamp nearby, over 300 bodies were found, a number unmatched in any other recorded massacre to date. An investigation wasnt held until the next year and the Major, along with his men were never tried in a court of law. Combined with many other tragic events since the time of European settlement, right up to the time of stolen generation and fighting for their land rights, the Indigenous people have been longing for peace and justice. Unfortunately, a serve of justice isnt the only thing plaguing their lives. Even today, the native Australians have a life expectancy rate twenty years lower than the average Australian. These lasting effects should have been ratified years ago but are now being accepted and dealt with by our government.

Ignorance in the ruling of a country can be further shown in the 300 year old Romanov dynasty, which was overthrown by the lower classes who had enough of the injustices caused by the autocratic rule. This extreme example can be related to the main character in The Secret River, William Thornhill, who had also had enough of the way he and many other lower class citizens were treated. He had to fight his way from extreme poverty, dealing with his conscience as he had to rely on stealing for survival because there could be no sin in thieving if it meant a full belly. Like many others, he dreamt of better life and sought to make this happen. He became an apprentice and earnt an honest living for himself and his family until conditions outside of his control forced him to take up thieving again. This resulted in Thornhill being caught and thrown into jail. He had to use every connection he had in the higher classes to escape the hangmans noose. While having the desired effect in saving a mans life, it also shows the corrupt way in which the government was run. Thornhill, from this situation was able to build his life into one resembling something like a king, but at a sacrifice.

The sacrifice was made by Thornhills wife, Sal. Although an only child and strong in the face of adversity, Sals dreams were pushed aside in order for Thornhill to fulfil his desires. Throughout their relationship in the earlier days, the couple was able to work through things together, to be able to confide in each other. That was destroyed when Thornhill took the situation into his own hands and took part in the massacre so the Indigenous people wouldnt reside on his land. Sal told him theyll get us in the end if we stop here and he saw to it that they wouldnt. Although he never discussed in detail what happened, Sal knew there was more to the story I hope you aint done nothing, on account of me pushing at you, but Thornhill stuck to his account of what happened, omitting certain details. He had not thought that words unsaid could come between two people like a body if water but thats exactly what happened. Although he was finally able to obtain his land for himself, his relationship with his wife had changed.

Through a variety of different types of conflict experienced through his life, the fictional character Thornhill rose up in society, with an abundance of land and wealth. While that is considered a positive outcome, his personal relationships suffered, in particular, he irretrievably lost his son, Dick and a friend, guide and mentor in Blackwood. Not all effects of conflict are considered to be positive nor are all effects considered to be negative. The fact remains that conflict has existed since the beginning of time and will continue to exist in our everyday world, leaving long lasting effects. Its up to us, the current generation to right the wrong effects left and stop history repeating itself. That, hopefully, can be positive long-lasting effect that can be embraced by not only the government but by us all.

(kate grenville, the secret river).

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