Black Diggers

Black Diggers


Tom Wright

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Taxidermist Character Analysis

A settler who saves Nigel from being murdered by other white men as a boy, although only because Nigel is a “perfect specimen.” In a later scene, it becomes clear that he has raised Nigel as his own son. He shows Nigel around the Australian Museum, telling him about humankind’s relationships to the stuffed apes that populate the museum as Nigel asks about his real Aboriginal parents. The Taxidermist refuses to give him any detailed information about his parents’ murders at the hands of settlers, and at the end of his scene, he vanishes to leave Nigel alone, under attack by the museum’s animals. The Taxidermist demonstrates the colonial obsession with taxonomizing people in the same way as animals, which is based on the assumption, heavily influenced by shoddy interpretations of Darwinian evolution, that humans could be ranked on a continuum from more evolved (which, for white colonists, invariably meant themselves) to less evolved (and therefore closest to apes). While the Taxidermist saves Nigel, then, the play heavily implies that his job is also to use Nigel as a “specimen” to somehow “prove” that Indigenous people are inferior and to justify the colonization of Australia.

Taxidermist Quotes in Black Diggers

The Black Diggers quotes below are all either spoken by Taxidermist or refer to Taxidermist. 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

Full-blood, too. Unusual. Perfect specimen. And if I’d been only five minutes later … it’s all chance, and fate. [To the baby] Look at you. Back from the dead, if only you knew it.

Related Characters: Taxidermist (speaker), Nigel
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

NIGEL: Father, what happened to my aborigine parents?

TAXIDERMIST: You know that, little man. They died.

NIGEL: How did they die?

TAXIDERMIST: I’ll tell you one day. Look, a chimpanzee. They are our closest relatives.

NIGEL: Why not now?

TAXIDERMIST: Because you’re not ready yet.

NIGEL: Ready for what?

TAXIDERMIST: The world—the bigger, grown-up world—is a complicated, difficult place. You should enjoy every moment of your childhood. Plenty of time for truth later.

Related Characters: Nigel (speaker), Taxidermist (speaker)
Page Number: 19-20
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two Quotes

Tarzan. At the Empire. Tarzan, man of the apes. The ape man. Tarzan. Ape. Man. Lowland Gorilla. From Zanzibar. Ape. Man.

He stops, has a surreptitious swig from a bottle. Stands still, watching people rush past him.

Sorry Dad.

Related Characters: Nigel (speaker), Taxidermist
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
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Black Diggers PDF

Taxidermist Character Timeline in Black Diggers

The timeline below shows where the character Taxidermist 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
Racism Theme Icon
...the group compares the baby to an animal. Another settler nearly shoots it, until a Taxidermist comes along and stops them. The Taxidermist picks up the baby, describes it as a... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
The scene shifts to 1895, when the Taxidermist takes a boy, Nigel, through Sydney’s Australian Museum, showing him the exhibits of stuffed animals... (full context)