The Secret River

social and moral responsibility Grenville expresses throughout the novel

From characters, language, society, setting etc

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The theme of social hierarchy, responsibility, and its levels of power runs throughout the novel. Beginning with William's first visit to Christ Church through to the placement of the stone lions on the gateposts of Thorhnhill's Point, Grenville explores the impact of social ranking on individual development. The humiliation that William experiences as a waterman in London marks his character for life and informs the choices he makes throughout the novel. He craves the thrill of wielding power over another person. For William and the other settlers (the majority of whom are convicts), their status as white men gives them permission to look down on other human beings (the Aborigines), for the first time in their lives. Their treatment of the Aborigines is informed by their understanding of how one should treat a racial and social inferior.