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The Secret River Comprehension & Analysis Questions

In this section we are introduced to the main character, William Thornhill who has
been transported on the Alexander to New South Wales, for the term of his
natural life.
The Prologue: Strangers
1. Grenville uses personification to describe the forest. Explain how this
personification contributes to the establishment of the setting. What
greater statement could Grenville be making?
2. What do you think the central concern is for the prologue? Justify your
answer with three quotes.
3. Find five similes used within this section and explain their effect.
4. What insights can be gained from the dialogue between William Thornhill
and the Aboriginal man, Be off! (pg. 6-7).
5. What inferences can be made about William Thornhills personality when
reading the prologue? Explain your answer using evidence from the text.
6. How has Grenville used irony in the prologue?
7. Why do you think Grenville commences the novel with the prologue,
Susan Boyer writes about the experiences of both Aboriginals and settlers
from the time the First Fleet landed in Australia. Listen to her conversation
with Richard Fidler and make a 50 word summary in your book
Part One: London

William and his sister quarrel about how his name is as common as dirt in
the late eighteenth century in England. What is the significance of this?

Thornhill knew only of a life of constant starvation. In order to survive,

stealing or was a part of life for the Thornhills. How is foreshadowing used in
this section? Use quotes to support your answer.

Williams mother is not named. Rather, William fondly describes his sister
Lizzie as his caretaker. In addition, Williams brother Rob drowns in the River
of Thames, his brother had gone over the stern and no more was heard of
him What inferences can be made about his familial relationships?

How would you characterise William's childhood? What are his defining

During his seven years apprenticeship, Thornhill developed a strong sense

of hatred (p.48) towards the gentry. Explain this in greater detail using
quotes to justify your response.

How would you characterise Sals childhood? What are some of her defining

Why do you think William was so intrigued by Sal? Compare their upbringing
to justify your answer.

How do things go well for them?

Why do things go badly? Is it their fault? What could they have done

10 Do you think William was remorseful, once being caught and sentenced to
death? Why or why not?
11 Sal teaches William how to write. What is the significance of language and
the written word in this chapter? What greater statement could Grenville be
12 Describe Sal's behaviour once William is convicted. What would you do?