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The Secret River - Thornhill Characterization Essay

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After almost a year of settling in, stories of the natives’ violence continued. On one trip back from Sydney, Thornhill saw trouble had reached his home when Willie ran ‘down towards him from the hut, his hair wild, his face twisted with yelling’ [pg 191]. To his relief, Sal explained that the natives had come the day before, but no one was harmed. Yet he was determined to settle the feud, and ‘set off towards the smoke’ where the natives isolated themselves from the foreigners.  
He discovered two naked women by the fire, and while he was ashamed to look at another woman’s body, the women appeared to be comfortable in their skins. Thornhill then realized that a group of men were watching him. Bravely, he acted as though he was the host, and the natives were his guests on his land. He asserted that ‘this [place is] mine now. Thornhill’s place’ [pg 196]. Yet one of the natives, the same one Thornhill had slapped on his first day, illustrated through his body language and vocals that Thornhill was an intruder on their land. Although no ‘conversation had taken place’ [pg 197], Thornhill understood that both sides would be unfaltering, and that the dispute was far from over.
Once at home, Thornhill made light of his encounter, assuring Sal that everything was fine. Secretly, he hoped that ‘the sky would be empty of their smoke’ [pg. 198], but every morning his wish was never fulfilled. With his long-term exposure to the natives, Thornhill realized that the natives were not indistinguishable from one another because of their black skin, but instead, he found that could tell them apart easily. He named the old man Whisker Harry, the man he had slapped was Long Bob, and a younger man Black Dick – names that made them appear more like friendly neighbors. Although the men never came close to Thornhill and his men, the women befriended Sal. The women enjoyed showing each other their cultural utilities and clothing, and Sal often exchanged her belongings for the natives’...

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