The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith
re-released by Flamingo
Dr Neil E. Béchervaise
Australia’s indigenous people were first granted equal rights under the law in 1967, following the only successful referendum since Federation in 1901. Prior to the referendum, Aborigine’s were governed under various State and territory laws, none of which recognised them as citizens with civil rights. This dramatic change resulted in a number of novels and films over the next five years focusing mainly on historical issues. Perhaps the immediate issues were too confronting – the first land rights claim was made in 1968!
In this context, Keneally’s novel is important for the scope it encompasses and the range of issues it canvasses. Jimmie Blacksmith can be seen as the victim of a bygone age or he can be seen as symbolic of the struggle between assimilationist and integrationist policies that characterise the 1967 change in legislation.
The blatant racism he experiences from the farmers who exploit him amplify the inappropriateness of his mission-bred beliefs. He has been disinherited from his traditional beliefs but he is barred from inheriting the benefits of the white Christian veneer that obscure it.
First published in 1972, the novel was re-released in 1979 in response to the international success of Fred Schepisi’s filmed version heralding a shift in Australian attitudes towards their indigenous people.
The welded iron mesh of the front cover image tends to suggest a modern-day story but the novel tells a story of the nineteenth century. Working in small groups, decide what images the design suggests for you and then suggest some ways the cover designer is linking the past with the present.
The cover notes speak of "An extraordinary story of a black man’s revenge against an unjust and intolerant society". Consider how this description support the view suggested in the description of the story above it.
Time book critic Melvin Maddocks says that "Novelists with the most damned consciences tend to write the most blessed prose". Discuss what Maddocks might mean by the terms "damned conscience" and " blessed prose". What does this review add to your anticipation of the way the novel will be presented?
Initiated into the Tullam clan of the Mungindi tribe, Jimmie Blacksmith is more powerfully influenced by the values of Rev Neville, the Methodist missionary. Filled with ideas of marrying a white girl and owning his own property, Jimmie leaves the mission with a reference from his mentor. Rejected and ridiculed for his reference, Jimmie eventually finds a job as a fencer with the austere Mr Healy who cheats him and refuses a reference when the job is completed. Undaunted, Jimmie takes more fencing jobs until he meets a white servant girl, Gilda, whom he decides to marry. Working for the Newby family, he builds a house, marries the pregnant Gilda and brings her to live with him. The birth of a baby, not his, brings further ridicule from the Newby women and their schoolteacher guest, Petra Graf, who is engaged to a squatter, Dowie Stead.
When the Newby’s refuse Gilda food, Jimmie argues his case but is further ridiculed. Finally broken from his ambition, he murders the Newby women and flees with his brother, Mort, uncle Jackie, Gilda and the baby. Their flight is marked with several more murders before Jimmie takes a teacher, McCreadie as hostage. Eventually McCreadie separates Jimmie from Mort who is killed. Jimmie is wounded and then captured in a convent before being tried and hung as Australian Federation is proclaimed.
As you read the novel, develop a plot outline separating the story of Jimmie from the stories of the whites. Use your findings to identify the major beliefs and concerns of each group. Discuss whether you agree with Rev Neville’s final unpublished letter. Or is there a different way of viewing the tragedy?
Jimmie’s war is very personal. It is driven by the rejection of the white women rather than the more obvious lying, cheating and incapacity of the men. In this sense, it is warped by the well-intentioned teachings of Rev Neville, himself lusting after the unattainable aboriginal women of Brentwood and probably only saved by his move to Muswellbrook. Neville’s sexual confusion becomes Jimmie’s moral and intellectual confusion as he attempts assimilation according to
Neville’s precepts. White women become symbolic of acceptance into mainstream society:
‘To have a white wife and a good reputation for work – these must combine for a man’s good’. p.59
and although he recognises the inherent contradiction, he rationalises this against his desire to succeed.
‘As night came on, he found himself making white promises about the land they would come to own and the people who would call them sir and madam’. p.59
The culture clash is climaxed in the Newby women’s attempt to subborn his wife, Gilda, herself only a white representation of the gins he has lain with in Verona.
Jimmie’s declaration of war on white society through the slaughter of its women provides a particular view of war. It is contextualised within the preoccupation of the young white squatters and clerks with the Boer war, where more are dying of disease than in battle, and against the promise of Australian Federation. But it is never an easy war. Jimmie has broken irrevocably with traditions that protect women and see their blood as a powerfully bad omen. He is doomed because he has broken both black and white laws.
Jimmie reflects on his revenge with an air of tortured sanity that allows the author to provide him with complex motivations while examining his crimes at a distance. This third person omniscience gradually becomes patronising as Keneally describes the actions of Mr Jimmie Blacksmith – the actions of a white with the white title of his ambition. In this ironic sense he is elevated to white status by the horrific nature and extent of his crimes though demeaned in his submission to the will of his hostage, McCreadie, and ultimately betrayed in ‘his fundamentalist conversion in jail’. p.177
Keneally has provided a comprehensive contextualisation of the plight of Jimmie Blacksmith. Hyberry’s role as the executioner – does he have to be a butcher by trade? - seeking royal honours is complicated in his apparent lack of insight into his role. His association through masonry with both the political aspirations of the Federationists and the personal complexities of the young squatter, Dowie Stead, provide a further unexplored dimension to the novel. The antagonism between protestants and catholics adds to Jimmie’s confusion over his Christian beliefs though the depth of division between British and Irish, touched in apparently friendly debate between Dowie, Dud and Toban does not prevent the Irish Toban becoming the only white male to be killed, ‘… a comforting killing this time, a hunter brought down’. P.118
The inclusion of the letters between the unnamed but unfaithful schoolteacher and his lover, Clarice appear as apparently unfinished business in the novel and each adds to the picture of a nation emerging from widely differing values and beliefs towards an uncertain future. The role of the Wharf Labourers Union and the variant voices of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Bulletin suggest a dynamic which will follow the demise of Jimmie Blacksmith. These issues will particularly interest History and Politics students
Working in small groups, develop a mind map for each of the following:
Cultural difference – values and ambition
Sexual confusion – lust and love
Family – particularly the Blacksmiths, the Newby’s and the Steads
Traditional and eligious belief and practice
Attitudes to women – among both black and white men
Politics and legislation – the historical evolution of Australia
War - Boer war and Jimmie’s war
Share your map with the whole group to develop an overview of the principal concerns of the novel. To what extent do these work together to provide a single theme for the novel?
Up until its release, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith was the most expensive film ever made in Australia [$1.28 million]. A commercial failure at home, it won critical acclaim in America and Britain and was invited into the official Competition in Cannes in 1978. Film critic Brian MacFarlane has proposed that "it touches too raw a communal nerve for box office popularity, or that its protagonist’s failure to find a way out of his dilemma makes it too downbeat for ready identification".
More than 30 years after its first release, the film still provides powerful support for the novel though, like most films of novels, it impoverishes our understanding of the inner thoughts and motivation of its characters. Just as Jimmie is seen as a caricature of a real man by the whites he works with, the film similarly reduces a number of significant characters and eliminates events crucial to our deeper understanding.
In contrast, the film evokes a strong sense of place and time. It sets its black characters against a relentless backdrop of ignorant condescension, fear and hatred. To this purpose it is a useful teaching resource.
After reading the novel and viewing the film, consider how the changed sequence of events and reduction of explanation affects your understanding of Jimmie’s motivation to achieve his ambitions of marriage, honest work and property ownership?
Keneally’s efforts to reproduce an aboriginal English for his major characters provide him with an opportunity to discuss its cadence and its origins,
‘"There yer are, old girl". The almost Cockney accent of the aborigine speaking English’.
and to note Jimmie’s ability to adjust his language to suit his audience.
‘The Mungindi were able to handle their aitches, the natives of Verona only some, but a rough sort of politeness made Jimmie copy them.’ P.25
More markedly, the author indicates the points where shifts between English and Mungindi are essential to establish meaning because of fundamental differences in culture,
‘"You got a job?", Jimmie asked. In English. For in Mungindi there was no word for job.’
or because English is inadequate to the images and emotions described
‘There is a woman here, fat as a grub. She is a devil woman …’ p.99
Frequent dialogue provides the reader with access to the class differences that accent and usage suggest. Jimmie’s visit to the Department of Agriculture to get a pamphlet of fencing results in his joining with the upper class English and the middle class Australian in a conversation that is as much about language difference as it is about class background or even war.
Keneally’s prose shifts between poetic elegance
‘He knew that the white women with their corseted bounteous wombs would not tempt as he had been tempted at Brentwood’. P.9
and flat description
‘On this, the hardy side of the mountains, they had to part and look for shallow water on rock ledges.’
as he manipulates the mood of the novel to match, or contest, the changing moods of Jimmie and his diminishing fugitive party.
The increasing use of newspaper articles successfully distances the flight of the Blacksmiths to an official and public level. Feelings are editorialised and emotions distilled into calculated, even orchestrated, outrage:
‘The same diabolic energy that set him to his monstrous work last July in Wallah drove him to a remarkable feat in the swimming of the Manning River …’ (Sydney Morning Herald) p.163
which are then contrasted with alternate, equally calculated responses:
'Given that swim, it is a pity that he had a history of female homicide, for it was the act of a hero.’ (The Bulletin) p.163
The present tense immediacy of the SMH report is contrasted with the past tense of the Bulletin article and Jimmie Blacksmith’s fate is anticipated as the reader recognises the end is close.
The agriculture clerks argue with obscene language but Jimmie is warned against bad language and then encouraged to use it. p.18 Find a range of examples of how Keneally uses variations in language to establish differences in social standing and power between speakers. Are these kinds of variations still used for the same purposes a century later?
The author moves deliberately between functional descriptions (for example of Wallah p.52) to almost poetic descriptions (for example of the burial place of Jack Fisher p.41 and Jimmie’s first sight of the sea p.147). Compare these descriptions with those surrounding the Newby and Healy killings. Suggest how these stylistic changes affect our emotional response to the events described.
Keneally becomes conscious of putting thoughts too neatly in Jimmie’s head – thinking his thoughts for him.
‘There was no question that the blood of women overrode all kinship loyalty … Mort must either be incriminated for fear of losing him or lost for fear of incriminating him’.
To what extent would the novel be diminished if it was related through Jimmie’s narrative voice?
Identify the devices Keneally has used to provide alternate points of view throughout the novel. Consider how effective these changes are for you as a reader.
The juxtaposition of events against their background is a common literary device for heightening horror. The author contrasts normality against murder scenes as he describes the ‘quotidian cry’ of the Newby child given a banana by Jimmie while the Newby women lie slaughtered in the next room. Later, he observes the fine heifers ‘beginning to mill for milking. They ignored the arduously creeping lady-companion’. p.102 Use further examples of this juxtaposition of events and opinions to discuss the effectiveness of the novel in creating a sense of horror.
Mort observes ‘If yer married Mungara none of this would have happened. Now yer kin see why Tullam takes Mungara.’
'Horseshit,’ said savage Mr Jimmie Blacksmith.
Keneally introduces the novel with a clear description of the Mungindi marriage laws. He then establishes the tension between the white clay healing and the punishing cane of Jimmie’s traditional and Christian teachings. As a result, it is unsurprising when these form the basis for major conflict in the novel.
While tracking ability, destructively innocent generosity and blood taboos help to maintain a sense of difference between black tradition and white teaching, it is maintained most effectively maintained in the Mungindi songs sung by Tabidgi and Mort. The right to captured women, the omens of blood ‘the stain is in the inner eye’, and the pride of the Tallum man each provides a censorious by-line to Jimmie’s increasing fall from both traditional and Christian grace.
As Jimmie returns from his initiation, Rev Neville suggests that it is ‘as if the boy had come back from the dead’. Discuss ways in which the pastor’s comment is closer to the truth than he imagines.
Consider the authors comment that ‘The truth of Mr Neville and the truth of Emu-wren ran parallel’. Assess how the two truths are shattered and re-assess the comment in view of later events.
‘Jimmie’s black soul had been most undermined by the train journey …’ Working in small groups, identify the various events which undermine ‘Jimmie’s black soul’ up to the Newby murders. Working as a whole group, discuss the pressures applied to Jimmie to destroy his early ambitions.
In a novel replete with symbolic gesture and action, from knocking out teeth to attending church on Sunday, the complex patterns of the novel provide for both simple symbols like Jimmie’s tooth and an overarching symbolism based derived from the sexual motivations of the major characters. While sex can be seen as a creative and regenerative force, the sexual activity in this novel is perverted to underscoring a more brutal reality. The relations between black and white are tainted with guilt among the whites and innocence among the blacks. The whites indulge their individual frustrations and inadequacies, as when Newby exposes himself to Gilda, while the blacks share their warmth in degradadtion.
At its most sophisticated, the symmetry of Mort sleeping with a halfcaste while halfcaste Jimmie slept with a fullblood p.29 is counterpointed with Dowie Stead’s discovery that he and his father are sleeping with the ‘same thin, consumptive black girl, called Tessie’. p. 91. This symmetry is extended in Jimmie’s lust for Miss Graf ,
‘he had never had a girl like that, a plump, ripe girl, The black girls of the camp had ugly fat or tubercular leanness’. P.76
Jimmie’s initiation, his rebirth from the mouth of the great lizard is marked physically with circumcision and the knocking out of his eye tooth, his face and genitals symbolically yet antiseptically painted in white pipe-clay until he has recovered from the ritual.
Balancing this ritual of rebirth is the Australian progress towards Federation, marred by involvement with the Boer War, confused in the role of Mr Hyberry, the executioner, and finally proclaimed in the British parliament as Tabidgi and Jimmie are executed.
McCreadie’s knowledge of initiation site of the Manning River tribes comes from childhood memories, his knowledge of tradition from a book. Suggest how McCreadie’s illness and his book knowledge can be seen as representative of Australian understanding of aboriginal issues
Jimmie tries vainly to undo the vandalism of the Manning River site but he is too late. Has he been too late all his life?
Dowie Stead sees himself charged with responsibility for exacting revenge for the murder of his fiancée, whom he did not love. His photograph with the Mort’s body appears to remove that sense of responsibility. Identify other events which remove white responsibility for the tragedy which unfolds in the novel.
Jimmie’s ability to read causes resentment in Healy and surprise in the clerks. It also provides Jimmie with access to dreams he can never realise. Consider how the ability to read is used as a means of presenting the complexity of Jimmie’s position in white society.
The false comfort of conversion before he dies promises Jimmie forgiveness through death so that, as the Wharf Labourer’s letter suggests, he avoids punishment because his end is predictable.
Religion can be blamed as the cause of Jimmie’s problems but it is only a manifestation of the confusion in white society. Jimmie is confused at the acrimony between Methodists and Roman Catholics, the austerity of the Treloar’s and Mrs Treloar’s lack of charity.
In this confusion, Jimmie
‘… was a hybrid … having chosen to grub and build as whites do, he knew that love was a special fire that came down from God’.
So he becomes
‘suspended between the loving tribal life and the European rapture from on high called falling in love … Jimmie Blacksmith held himself firm and soundly despised as many people as he could’. P.27
In this same confused state, Mrs Healy’s lady –companion threatens Mort with hanging and then hell for the Healy murders. Mort’s reference point, however, is more firmly grounded. Seeing the dead Florence Healy and her baby, he is ‘silly with shock’ as he invokes traditions of law and honour to which Jimmie lamely responds, ‘He starved me and told me bloody lies’. Then, more tellingly, ‘She tried to take my soul away from me’. p. 101
Misguided religious learning and practice play a central role in the story of Jimmie Blacksmith but it is at the points of selfish and sectarian difference that the tragedies are formed.
‘Mr Jimmie Blacksmith stepped out into daylight and shot him through the heart. Healy cheated once more. The big harsh man died touchingly as a saint.’ p. 102/103
Keneally appears to suggest that while Jimmie becomes Mr with a gun, Healy becomes a saint because he dies innocent of his family’s murder. How do you see the event?
Perspectives on the novel
Initiation, marriage and execution are each symbolic acts in which individuals are accepted into or excluded from the society to which they claim kinship.
Keneally’s paralleling of white and aborigine societies provides him with a laboratory in which to test a range of social hypotheses. His findings are pessimistic. As a result, readers are left to reflect on how they have been positioned by the choice of events and language chosen by the novelist. Frequently, the author attributes meaning to unspoken responses, we are left to decide for ourselves whether this would be our own response. When Jimmie throws away his savings away to the family demanding communal sharing, Keneally comments,
‘It should not have come from him so easily’. p.30.
‘… Mort’s joke was very private and cherished for its secrecy. Whites resented such hints’. P. 29
‘If he had looked upon his black initiation in an evangelical way, he might have come to call this moment the one in which he lost his black core’. p. 12. What do you think?
‘He found himself swearing to possess her to depths that were probably not in her. It was strange how she had become inherent to his programme’. p.23 Is Florence Healy really inherent to Jimmie’s programme?
Jimmie does not love Gilda, Dowie doesn’t love Petra but each lusts for someone unattainable and against the rules of their society – love of the forbidden or impossible. Jimmie kills for love but Dowie is photographed with the dead brother of the man he is supposed to kill – the substitute revenge. Is the book about inability to love or the warping and misrepresentations of love?
‘In the mission station the legend was rife of the Blacksmith brothers’ success in the large world’. p.
What is success in modern multicultural Australia a century after federation?
Jimmie Blacksmith’s crime is not that he murdered anyone but that he believed he could be something he was not – a white man. To what extent is this a fair depiction of the source of Jimmie’s problems?
Film: Jedda (1953), Walkabout (1970), Manganinnie (1980), Wrong Side of the Road (1981), Deadly (1992), Blackfellas
Novels: A Kindness Cup by Thea Astley, Wildcat Screaming by Mudrooroo, My Place by Sally Morgan
Poetry: Stradbroke Dreaming by Oodgeroo Nunucal
Review: McFarlane, B (1995) The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. In Scott Murray (Ed) Australian Film: 1978-1994. Australia: Oxford University Press
Tabidgi – Jimmie Blacksmith’s maternal uncle – "Jackie Smolders to the white world" – sets out with the initiation tooth and sevenpence in the other pocket
Jimmie has married a white girl in the Methodist church in Wallah – against tribal custom
Rules of intermarriage – tribes marry between – would result in at least two generation separation and then only by coincidence
Reverend Neville – Jimmie as protégé – can’t understand ways of the blacks – and they don’t bother to tell him.
The Tullam men of Emu-wren and the Great Lizard
Initiation – knocking out eye tooth and circumcision – face and genitals painted in white pipe-clay
Tullam men marry Mungara women taken in battle – according to the song p.4
Mungara - Garri
Garri – Wibbera
Wibbera – Tullam
Jimmie returns a hero from initiation and is caned by Neville for truancy – the difference between the cultures is signalled clearly – Jimmie accepts both as reasonable
Neville’s ironic observation that the initiated Jimmie ‘as if the boy had come back from the dead’.
‘The truth of Mr Neville and the truth of Emu-wren ran parallel’.
Jimmie comes to question tribal values under Neville’s influence
Imbued with the drunkenness of the blacks and the need to marry a white girl
Police don’t accept drunkenness
Jimmie with Neville’s to Muswellbrook
‘He had very nearly decided that it would be better to have children who were scarcely black at all’.
‘Jimmie’s black soul had been most unjdermined by the train journey...’
LOVE – Jimmie falls in love with every white girl
p11 the eldest daughter of the farmer ‘He wanted her homesomeness, the density of her air of family security …’
‘And with love, ambitions! The sort Mrs Neville wanted him to have, landowning ambitions,ambitions for contracts, for bonding one’s word and sticking to a job until it was finished’.
‘If he had looked upon his black initiation in an evangelical way, he might have come to call this moment the one in which he lost his black core’. P. 12
Jimmie drunk/arrested p.13
p.14 leaving to get a job in the coal mine
rejected at mine and in orchards
Fencing with Irishman, Healy
Steals tools ‘for the Nevilles were the ones who had taught him that possession is a sacred state.’
The arguing clerks on Federation - Presaging the republican debate???
Healys go to Mass
‘…arrogant at dawn after lank Florence, Jimmie deliberately chose her, though he knew the choice was an act of fantasy … to elect her to the stature of ideal landowner’s wife … in a second she had become a symbol, a state of blessedness. It could almost be said that he did not choose her as a woman at all, rather as an archetype’.
Short-changed by Healy, who is insulted by the quality of his work
and the reference - can’t write
"Jimmie was at last stung by the mystery: that a wondrous landowner should need to degrade him".
Passed by the Healys. ‘He found himself swearing to possess her to depths that were probably not in her. It was strange how she had become inherent to his programme’. DEPTH OF SYMBOLIC HATRED????
Communal ownership –
Harry Edwards kills a whiteyp.24
Jimmie involved in burial. He only returns once again because the propitiatory rights of burial are not carried out 26/27
Claude Lewis – doesn’t trust Mort – too flippant, laughing – may turn property into ‘a blacks’ camp’
Return home. Gives away money. Mother dying of ‘Nammonia’
Jimmie heads west ‘where money was plentiful and the squatter’s wives had servants; "nice girls off stations", as Mrs Neville had said’.
Ambition that ‘One morning he would wake up "Mr Blacksmith"’.
Joins police force with Senior constable Farrell
Mr Hyberry, the butcher from Balmain, is public executioner for NSW.
Identified as a missionary black, ‘Jimmie’s face prickled. He had been a policeman for half an hour yet now he wanted to commit murder. He was more officially a black now than Tabidgi or Mort: a registered, accredited, uniformed black man; more deeply, more damagingly black than ever’.
White men and black women
Death of Jack Fisher at Verona resurfaces – appearances
Farrell is homosexual sadist
Jimmie beats blacks in the camp from horseback and stands by Farrell at interrogation of giggling women
‘A tableau recurred to him, a vineyard of gallows from which hung all the inept, unfortunate race, emphatically asleep … It’d be a good thing, Jimmie felt sure; like a white realist’. P.41
Jack Fisher’s mother at the funeral gives Farrell 300 pounds. Farrell gives Jimmie 2 pounds ten
Harry Edwards pleads that Jimmie protect him from Farrell.
Farrell beats Edwards to death then hangs him – BLACK DEATHS IN CUSTODY
Jimmie burns his uniform with Edwards bloody clothes and leaves in disgust – ironic response is similar to Nevilles’ after his initiation, ‘Yer just git one of ‘em in shape and they go off on bloody walkabout’.
Shearer’s cook trying to hypnotise girl – ‘Wayward girl that she was, she still thought she had a heritage and that she surpassed Jimmie.
Jimmie’s confused response to sexuality p.47
Sarcasm of the cook to which J responds, ‘I ain’t a primitive, Mister cook’.
Jimmie’s language command and dignity almost win the girl.
Jimmie in gumboots, called wellingtons because military association p48
Made love with girl, Gilda.
Paid off at end of run
Announces he is marrying the white girl. Paid extra and told to ‘Bugger orf, Jimmie …While yore lucky’.
Jimmie builds a house to bring Gilda to
Politics is corrupt according to Newby p.51
Jimmie knows ‘declare war’ as ‘a sweet wide freedom –to hate, discredit, debase as an equal
Newby lends a horse for Gilda-
Newby is tickled ‘that a black should be able to remember itineraries’. ‘There was always mockery in his eyes, on the remoter side of his face’.
Asking Rev Treloar to marry him to Gilda Howie
‘To have a white wife and a good reputation for work – these must combine for a man’s good’.
The austere methodism of the Treloars denies decoration of the church
Jimmie has to split 2 tons of wood befgore they can leave
Gilda wants to die when she sees her new house – she had a greater but unarticulated dream p.59
‘As night came on, he found himself making white promises about the land they would come to own and the people who would call them sir and madam’.
Mrs Newby is protective of Gilda.
Miss Petra Graf engaged to a man in Gulargambone – expresses distaste for the marriage
THE BABY IS WHITE
Miss Graf suggests they split up. Jimmie is ridiculed by the sons
‘There was high moral glee in the women of the homestead’.
‘Jimmie Blacksmith was bereft.’
Tabidgi Jack Smolders arrives with the initiation tooth. He and Mort stay in a lean-to built onto the house.
Jimmie beats Gilda
Jimmie wishes for Tabidgi’s departure – thinks of putting bad omens, menstrual blood, on T’s bedding to scare him away
‘Now he worked automatically, without aim. Work was a sedative…’
Gilda’s menstrual blood ‘put him to flight one night.’ A very powerful bad omen
Newby’s refuse food to Gilda. Try to get her to leave and live with Miss Graf. She realises she will be dumped when her work is criticised.***********CLIMACTIC EVENT*********
‘"It’s yer chance", Mrs Newby said.’
Gilda realises that Newby boy has had Miss Graf
Mr Newby has exposed himself to her
Gilda runs away from the Newby homestead
Jimmie thinks how he has never had a woman who was plump – like Miss Graf
‘When he put his rifle against Mr Newby’s gut, he knew that he wished to kill that honey-smooth Miss Graf. His desire for her blood, he understood, came as a climax to his earlier indecencies.’
‘Jimmie admitted to his body a drunken judgemental majesty, a sense that the sharp-edged stars impelled him. He was large with a royal fever, with rebirth. He was in the lizard’s gut once more’. P.78
The songs that drive the legends are songs of battle and triumph and pride
‘…At midday we stalk you on tip-toe from a distance,
At dusk we are at your throat …’ p.78
Leads to the massacre
Relationship of sex to battle – ritual conquering the women of the opposing tribe in a traditional round that ensures against interbreeding
White men conquering black women
But cut across by the Neville’s missionary teaching that Jimmie should marry a white girl
Against all the tribal and white laws – written and unwritten
Jimmie recognises and accepts the slaughter ‘as the first necessary casuaties of a war regally undertaken ....’ Author’s judgement.
Jimmy collects food ‘more or less Gilda’s shopping list for the day’.
Banana for the unkilled child.
Tabidgi invokes traditional song
‘Spirits fleeing back to their totem fathers,
My barbs deep in their bodies …’
Gilda is propelled by guilt at the white baby – and fear of charity
Mort supports ‘wronged kin’ p84
Omniscient view of each man’s personal response p.84
Gilda’ confession to Jimmie, ‘I really thought the baby was yores’.
Tabidgi has the blood of four women on him so expects to die p.86
Jimmie to Gilda ‘Tell the p’lice I said I declared war’.
They leave Jackie, Peter, Gilda and baby by the Dubbo road
The white response
Newby’s need people to agree that this is ‘the worst outrage.’
Dowie Stead – Miss Graf’s fiancé – and friends with rum-fortified outrage p.89
Preferes the company of men – didn’t actually love Miss Graf – sharing the black girl Tessie with his father – author’s understated moral outragejuxtapose executioner, Mr Hyberry, in Balmain – aside why????
Jimmie has a list of enemies to be approached in order – a revenge list
Quandary over whether and how to bring Mort into the mess
Jimmie ‘…had actually manufactured death and howling dark foir people who had pretensions of permanence’.
Mrs Healy recalled ‘wirth something like a lover’s remembrance’.
Mulletts at Barrington Tops – congenial evening
Healy’s Mort shoots woman in chest
Mrs Healy and baby
Jimmie shoots her in the throat and then shoots baby in head
Mort is ‘silly with shock’ – ‘Healy deserve all this?’ – refers to woman blood and child blood – invoking traditions of law and honour in the tribe. Jimmie responds ‘She tried to take my soul away from me’.
Killing of the Healy family. Mort shoots lady-companions – now also doomed.
Jimmie promises no more women to be killed.
Jimmie fantasises ‘the terror of his name’.
Mort paints his face
‘…For nothing more terrible than Tullam man
Will ever break the sleep of living man …’
‘Perhaps it meant that Mort was trying to fit their movements into a tribal pattern.
Dowie Stead – expected to exact revenge –
Reflection of the hunt as a preparation for South African War service
But most people die of disease not on active service – irony recognised????
Irish/British feeling. Irish sympathy with Boers
‘they nearly all knew what it was to slaver after dark women’.
Rev Neville’s guilt p. 109
Neville upset for Jimmie. ‘Mr Neville was no fool. He knew what sickness Jimmie was suffering. Having a true talent for religion, he understood the obsessive spiral…’
‘Mr Neville remembered with nausea that he had recommended this sort of marriage to Jimmie.’
Sydney Mr Hyberry won’t hang women refuses to provide gossip or insights into his trade. Has miscalculated drop and mutilated one black man
Jimmie and Mort bored and reckless visit Pilbarra camp. Nancy.
Jimmie is overcome with grief for what he has done
Author judges ‘So Jimmie was still the victim.’
Police arrive and they elude capture but Mort shoots Toban in the stomach,who happens to be in the wrong place.
‘… a comforting killing this time, a hunter brought down’. P.118
Increasing attention to the countryside
Mort observes ‘If yer married Mungara none of this would have happened. Now yer kin see why Tullam takes Mungara.’
Horseshit,’ said savage Mr Jimmie Blacksmith.
Note increasing use of MR by author – why??
Riding the cows with the calf following, ‘moon-eyed and confused at this strange usage of its mother.
The old couple. Man manages to make Jimmie feel subordinate over blankets and food
Author is increasingly moralising
Gilda in Dubbo released to the Sisters of Mercy
Dowie’s party breaks up after Toban’s funeral – recognition that deliberate hunting will not be successful
Blacksmith’s tracked by their ransacking
Rest in hut, read newspapers about Toban
Newspaper styles – ref moralising
Jackie Smolders sentenced to death
Of Gilda, ‘he felt the pity which a man can easily mistake for love.’
‘The truest crime remaining to him to commit was the waste of love. It should be bequeathed as land is’.
Almost writes a letter but recognises access for mockery ‘"Sic", Jimmie felt sure, was a term of superior mockery’.
Bill to declare Blacksmiths outlaws
Paper with account of soldiers dying mostly from disease
‘Woman’s blood cleaves to a man’
even if it is washed off
‘…the stain is on the inner eye’.
He writes parting messages for Dulcie, Jackie and Gilda in the margins of a newspaper – has accepted that he will die
Crusading zeal of Dowie Stead – argues with friend Dud Edmonds over masonry, etc – Petra was RC
Dowie cries. ‘He wept for not having wept for Miss Graf. He wept for his father. What’s the matter that I can’t feel grief in its proper place?’Tamborine Public School incident
‘It was a schoolie did for Ned Kelly’, observes Jimmie.
The newspaper cartoon amuses all. ‘It was preposterously more than a joke…At once Jimmie saw the remote potentiality of becoming a figure of myth …’
McCreadie taken as hostage ‘But people are never passive mirrors’.
‘Mr Jimmie Blacksmith felt as cheated as a man who marries a bitter woman’.
Mr Hyberry is a mason – his recognition with royal honours is dependent on Blacksmith’s hanging on eve of Federation – irrelevant aside but tries to tie together Dowie Stead, Boer War, RC/Irish and Newby’s suggestion that Jimmie would make a politician – ie pick up loose ends and raise them above their irrelevance to create a context for the murders
McCreadie becomes the vocalisation of Jimmie’s conscience – tries to split the brothers – Pinnoccio??
McCreadie knows some of the traditional teaching – eg where babies come from
Approaching the coast
Jimmie Blacksmith was suddenly jealous for black secrets himself.
McCreadie urges them into going to the Manning River tribe’s initiation ground.
Mort paints his face again and begins to perform traditional rituals
‘Here black boyhood was fashioned to the purposes of tribe and marriage, hunting and kinship, confirmed in a special and delicate vision of the world’.
Mort has ‘lost some of the black protocol’ singing
‘Strangers yet well intended we have come
Wary of strangers totems
Fugitives who have seen all the bad omens of bad blood …’
‘But the state of the secret place disturbed him’ p.148
Jimmie tries to put the sacred place back together after it has been vandalised by whites over time. Graffitti
Nursery refrain ‘Build it up with iron bars, iron bars’
And ‘God will forgive us if we build it up.’ But knowing that he is ‘agnositic as Zola or Marx could want’. ??????????? TOTAL CONFUSION OF CULTURES
McCreadie tries to get Jimmie to leave on the basis that Mort is still an aborigine , challenges Jimmie’s love for Mort but ‘Mr Jimmie Blacksmith said softly, Yer better wrap yerself in a blanket, mister, and jest shut up."’ But ‘it was all inspired truth’.
Boer war report of suitability of Boers to maintain fight because knowledge of country p.152
Dowie and Dud. Dispute over the site for the new capital. New Australian constitution declared by Chamberlain.
McCreadie delirious nattering rhymes and declamation
Possibility of leaving Australia by ship
They leave McCreadie at a farm after being confronted
Mort becomes alienated from his land
‘And where was Jimmie?’ repeated.
Jimmie had left him native’. ‘All he could sense was the love and Jimmie’s death’. P.157
The role of McCreadie in driving Jimmie away from Mort
The Federation referendum
Mort runs off is sighted and shot – to a background of thunder
‘’Life, he sensed, was cast in certain jagged rhythms and there was some sort of lasting merit if a person gave himself up willingly to them’.
Dowie and Dud photographed with Mort’s body.
Mr Hyberry at lodge, will receive his honours if Jimmie is shot like Mort – won’t need to be hanged. ‘…executioners were mistrusted, especially if they had the sweet honour of exacting a publicly-stated, publicly-felt vengeance’.
Jimmie shot in face escapes across Manning River Newspaper SMH report p.163
Cared for by Chinese
Finds letters evidencing affair between a schoolteacher and someone – relevance???
Jimmie narrowly escapes Dowie and Dud
Church service at Kaluah
Jimmie imagines words to the nun’s song to support his guilt
Sleeps nightmares in convent, found, arrested
brought to jail
Letters to the editor – supporting him as aborigine from Wharf Labourers Union
From Rev Neville not published because it effectively excuses him
‘Then Australia became a fact’.
Press cartoonists p.177
Comments on Labour politicians
Jackie hanged after 9 months at Dubbo then Jimmie
As the celebrations of federation proceeded.