Black Diggers

Black Diggers

by

Tom Wright

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Bertie Character Analysis

An underage soldier who grows up in the wilderness of New South Wales with his mother and grandad. Excited by the opportunity to fight for his country and see a “bigger world,” he convinces his mother to forge his date of birth so he can sign up for the army. Later, he witnesses Frank’s death alongside Tommy and cuts a lock of Frank’s hair in the hopes of eventually honoring him properly back home in Australia. He then gets buried alive and, after he is saved, writes a letter to his mother, using the metaphor of the circus show he was never allowed to attend as a child, in order to get her to reveal his true age and get him discharged. She takes the hint and shows up in Europe only to find Bertie unresponsive and traumatized, a condition he never overcomes back in Australia, where he endlessly stares into space and clutches Frank’s hair. His fate shows how the war robbed young soldiers of their adolescence, even when it was sold to them on the promise of adventure and excitement.

Bertie Quotes in Black Diggers

The Black Diggers quotes below are all either spoken by Bertie or refer to Bertie. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Australian Nationhood and Indigenous Dispossession Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Playlab edition of Black Diggers published in 2015.
Act One Quotes

Australia. Never heard of it.

Related Characters: Bertie’s Grandad (speaker), Bertie, Bertie’s Mom
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Your folks do something, over in the West? [BERTIE shrugs] I wouldn’t know where to begin. His you know, his soul will be stuck here. You know what I mean. With all these trees, they will grow here one day all these—what do you call them? Elms and oaks and all that. And all these hedges and the flowers and we don’t know the names of any of them. And when they burn the smoke is different and will lead him a different way.

Related Characters: Bertie (speaker), Tommy
Related Symbols: The Lock of Frank’s Hair
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two Quotes

You know, even when the fires had been through, the little green shoots came up everywhere. Little tiny tender shoots, up from the bones. But that’s all lost now.

Related Characters: Bertie’s Grandad (speaker), Bertie
Related Symbols: The Lock of Frank’s Hair
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Black Diggers LitChart as a printable PDF.
Black Diggers PDF

Bertie Character Timeline in Black Diggers

The timeline below shows where the character Bertie appears in Black Diggers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One
Australian Nationhood and Indigenous Dispossession Theme Icon
History, Memory, and the Archive Theme Icon
...at Frying Pan Creek in New South Wales, a woman is working with her son Bertie, who asks her to lie and say he was born in 1898, which would be... (full context)
Australian Nationhood and Indigenous Dispossession Theme Icon
Bertie’s Grandad enters, and Bertie’s mom explains the situation. Grandad notes that they’ve “been fighting for... (full context)
Australian Nationhood and Indigenous Dispossession Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Shell Shock Theme Icon
Bertie’s mother agrees to forge Bertie’s birthdate, but warns her son that—just like when, as a... (full context)
Australian Nationhood and Indigenous Dispossession Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Shell Shock Theme Icon
At the battle of Pozieres in 1916, Bertie and Tommy fail to understand the last words of another soldier, Frank. They wonder how... (full context)
War, Violence, and Shell Shock Theme Icon
The same scene cuts to Bertie and Tommy “in a hole somewhere.” Bertie announces that he is only 15 and “shouldn’t... (full context)
War, Violence, and Shell Shock Theme Icon
History, Memory, and the Archive Theme Icon
In a field hospital in 1917, a “strangely stiff and unemotional” Bertie dictates a letter to his mother, telling her to reveal his true age and get... (full context)
War, Violence, and Shell Shock Theme Icon
Sometime in 1917, an officer tells Bertie that his “true date of birth has been ascertained” and he is set to be... (full context)
Act Two
War, Violence, and Shell Shock Theme Icon
...see that he is “back from the dead.” As he begins to tell his story, Bertie’s mom rushes into the scene and embraces Bertie, telling him how happy she is to... (full context)
Australian Nationhood and Indigenous Dispossession Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Shell Shock Theme Icon
History, Memory, and the Archive Theme Icon
In the woods near the Murrumbidgee river in 1927, Bertie’s Grandad laments that the formerly beautiful land has grown covered with trenches because of irrigation.... (full context)