'When Jimmie Blacksmith marries a white woman, the backlash from both Jimmie's tribe and white society initiates a series of dramatic events. As Jimmie tries to survive between two cultures, tensions reach a head when the Newbys, Jimmie's white employers, try to break up his marriage. The Newby women are murdered and Jimmie flees, pursued by police and vigilantes. The hunt intensifies as further murders are committed, and concludes with tragic results. Thomas Keneally's fictionalised account of the 1900 killing spree of half-Aboriginal Jimmy Governor is a powerful story of a black man's revenge against an unjust and intolerant society. ' (Publication summary)
Based on real events that occurred in Australia at the turn of the century and adapted from Thomas Keneally's novel, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith concerns a young man of Aboriginal and European heritage who has been raised by missionaries. A hard and reliable worker, Jimmie is employed on a property in central-western New South Wales. Hoping to achieve assimiliation into white society, Jimmy marries a white girl, but instead this only increases the loathing and ridicule directed at him. In the winter of 1900, an argument ensues between Jimmy and the owner of the property, which leads to Jimmie and his uncle horrifically killing most of the man's family. Jimmie subsequently takes to the bush with his wife, baby, and younger brother, Mort. Pursued by the police and vigilante farmers, Jimmie sends his wife back with a message: 'tell them I've declared war.' He and Mort kill again, but the younger brother becomes increasingly troubled by their actions. Jimmie eventually goes on alone until his inevitable capture and hanging.
Unit Suitable For:
AC: Year 11 (Literature Unit 1)
At a simple level, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is based on a conventional narrative structure of provocation, revenge, pursuit and capture. The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmithlayers all of the elements of this structure onto an equally familiar structure of the hero’s journey, or quest. Both of these narrative traditions are complicated and subverted by the empathetic construction of the novel’s anti-hero, Jimmie Blacksmith.
'Thomas Keneally’s The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1972) and Rohan Wilson’s The Roving Party (2011) resonate with the violence of the colonising process. The books relate, respectively, to murders that took place in New South Wales in 1901 just prior to Federation, and in Tasmania during the 1820s. Both novels employ elements of the Gothic mode to represent social disorder, and equate systematic racism with the mechanics of moral corruption in a hostile colonial environment. In their efforts to make sense of the past each, in its own way, has something to say about how opportunism and upward social mobility are linked to the possession of whiteness. Each taps into an historical frame of reference in which whiteness is understood, not simply as skin colour, but as something essential to the founding vision of Australia as a nation.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.