Jimmie Blacksmith is the son of a white man and an Aboriginal woman in late 19th century New South Wales. A Methodist minister teaches him Christian ideals and Western ambition. Thus, he sets out to make a life for himself in the cash economy and to marry a white woman, who he believes is carrying his child.

For a long time Jimmie quietly overcomes one barrier after another, and calmly accepts the continuous taunting and humiliation of Christian whites, who believe that Aboriginal people are dirt. However, he finally snaps. Exploited by his boss and betrayed by his wife, he simply cannot take it anymore. Jimmie then goes on a killing spree that seems to confirm the whites' worst fears.


This novel is based on an actual case that occurred in New South Wales near the end of the 19th century. In it Keneally presents a striking portrayal of the hatred and brutality that characterized race relations in colonial Australia. His white Australian characters demonstrate deep distrust of and hostility toward even the most subservient of the blacks.

The concept that an Aboriginal person might contract a valid Christian marriage is laughable (and deeply disturbing) to the whites. The concept that an Aboriginal man could actually marry a white woman is unthinkable. Fragments of traditional chants illustrate the warm communal bonds that characterize Aboriginal society. It is precisely the conflict between Jimmie's clan responsibilities and his European-style ambition that sets the stage for his final blow-up.



Place Published

Melbourne, Australia



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