Secret River

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The values and attitudes of the European settlers in Australia during the 19th century may seem preposterous to us today, but at the time their beliefs were normal and accepted. Caucasian people were thought to be superior to all other people, and Europeans were also thought to be superior to everyone else. So convicts sent over from England to Australia, who were the lowest kind of people in England, had a greater amount of power and respect than the Aboriginals had in Australia. The people then had different perspectives to us nowadays on race, gender, class and many other things. The settler’s views on the Aboriginal people were generally shared and accepted by most people during the colonisation of Australia. Kate Grenville’s story The Secret River is set during the time in which Australia was colonised. An understanding of the historical context in which The Secret River is set, shapes your reading of the text because it helps you to understand issues in the text such as class, race and gender. Firstly, knowing about the class structure of the period that The Secret River is based on, gives the reader a greater understanding of the text. They believed in The Great Chain of Being where God was the highest ruler and the church had a lot of power. Then there was the King because their society is ruled by a monarchy. They took the class structure very seriously, and once someone had been in a very low class, say with William Thornhill being a convict, they could never have as much respect. Thornhill “had a sudden dizzying understanding of the way men were ranged on top of each other, all the way from the Thornhills at the bottom up to the King of God, at the top, each man higher than one, lower than the other” showing how he was in a very low class compared to the vast range of other higher classes above himself. When Thornhill was a convict he was the lowest of the lows, so when he and other convicts like himself were sent to Australia, they immediately moved...
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