Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence

by

Doris Pilkington

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Doris Pilkington Character Analysis

The author of Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence and the daughter of Molly, the half-caste girl whose incredible journey forms the heart and soul of the narrative. Pilkington contrasts her mother’s story with stories of early but equally devastating Aboriginal encounters with the white settlers who would go on to decimate Aboriginal populations and culture. Outraged by the stolen past, present, and future of her people, Pilkington composes a narrative in which themes of desperation and desolation, racism and colonialism, and the importance of family, culture, and identity combine to demonstrate the resilience of hope and the empowerment that can come with reclaiming one’s identity through storytelling. An awestruck narrator of her mother’s and her aunts’ legendary trek through the bush, Pilkington reveres both her family’s history and her culture’s history, and composed this book as an ode to both. Pilkington herself was brought up in the Moore River Native Settlement, a fact which she keeps from her readers until the book’s very end, and which frames the book’s themes of loss and dispossession in a whole new light by showing how generations on generations of Aboriginal people have been affected by the greed and pride of the white settlers who colonized Australia centuries ago.

Doris Pilkington Quotes in Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence

The Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence quotes below are all either spoken by Doris Pilkington or refer to Doris Pilkington. 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:
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Queensland Press edition of Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence published in 2013.
Chapter 3 Quotes

The Nyungar people, and indeed the entire Aboriginal population, grew to realize what the arrival of the European settlers meant for them: it was the destruction of their traditional society and the dispossession of their lands.

Related Characters: Doris Pilkington (speaker)
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

The white settlers were a protected species; they were safe with their own laws and had police and soldiers to enforce these rules.

Related Characters: Doris Pilkington (speaker)
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

As a further insult by the white invaders, an act of goodwill in the form of an annual distribution of blankets to the Aboriginal people was established. This generally occurred on Queen Victoria’s birthday. The Illustrated Melbourne Post of 20 August 1861, page 9, described this event as “a sorry return for millions of acres of fertile land of which we have deprived them. But they are grateful for small things, and the scanty supply of food and raiment doled out to this miserable remnant of a once numerous people is received by them with the most lively gratitude.”

Related Characters: Doris Pilkington (speaker)
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Molly grew into a pretty little girl. Her mother was very proud of her and her father brought her gifts of clothing and pretty colored ribbons. […] As she grew older, Molly often wished that she didn’t have light skin so that she didn’t have to play by herself. Most of the time she would sit alone, playing in the red dusty flats or in the riverbed depending where her family had set up camp. The dust-covered child stood out amongst her darker playmates. The Mardu children insulted her and said hurtful things about her. Some told her that because she was neither Mardu or wudgebulla she was like a mongrel dog. One morning, her mother told her some exciting news. Two of her aunties had babies, little girls, and they were both muda-mudas like her. Molly was very happy. Now she had two sisters.

Related Characters: Doris Pilkington (speaker), Molly, Gracie, Daisy, Maude
Page Number: 38-39
Explanation and Analysis:

Molly and Daisy had just finished eating when all the camp dogs began barking. All eyes turned to the cause of the commotion. A tall white man stood on the bank above them. Fear and anxiety swept over them when they realized that the fateful day they had been dreading had come at last. They always knew it would only be a matter of time before the government would track them down. When Constable Riggs, Protector of Aborigines, finally spoke his voice was full of authority and purpose.

“I’ve come to take Molly, Gracie, and Daisy with me to go to school at the Moore River Settlement.”

The rest of the family just hung their heads refusing to face the man who was taking their daughters away from them.

Related Characters: Doris Pilkington (speaker), Constable M.J. Riggs (speaker), Molly, Daisy
Page Number: 43-44
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

When the sons and daughters of the landed gentry and businessmen and professionals such as doctors, lawyers and politicians, were sent away to boarding schools to be educated they were likely to be given pleasant rooms that would be theirs for the duration of their schooling. Instead of a residential school, the Aboriginal children were placed in an overcrowded dormitory. The inmates, not students, slept on cyclone beds with government-issue blankets. There were no sheets or pillow slips except on special occasions when there was an inspection by prominent officials. Then they were removed as soon as the visitors left the settlement and stored away until the next visit. On the windows there were no colourful curtains, just wire screens and iron bars. It looked more like a concentration camp than a residential school for Aboriginal children.

Related Characters: Doris Pilkington (speaker), Molly, Gracie, Daisy
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

There was much excitement when the girls at last reached the rabbit-proof fence. The fence cut through the country from south to north. It was a typical response by the white people to a problem of their own making. Building a fence to keep the rabbits out proved to be a futile attempt by the government of the day. For the three runaways, the fence was a symbol of love, home and security.

Related Characters: Doris Pilkington (speaker), Molly, Gracie, Daisy
Related Symbols: The Rabbit-Proof Fence
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

“Long way” sums up rather understatedly what was, without a doubt, one of the longest walks in the history of the Australian outback. While other parts of this vast country have been crossed on horses or camels, these three girls did their exploring on their bare feet. An incredible achievement in anyone’s language. The vastness and the diversity of the Western Australian landscape would always be respected and appreciated by them—they trekked across it and conquered.

Related Characters: Doris Pilkington (speaker), Molly, Gracie, Daisy
Page Number: 129-130
Explanation and Analysis:
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Doris Pilkington Character Timeline in Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence

The timeline below shows where the character Doris Pilkington appears in Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The First Military Post
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Family, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
...marvels at the peace all around him. Dawn is his favorite time of day. Doris Pilkington interjects to write that Kundilla was unaware of the devastation and desolation which would soon... (full context)
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
The loud “boom” which had just frightened the Nyungar, Pilkington reveals, had come from a cannon salute. British soldiers, with orders to set up a... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Swan River Colony
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Family, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Actually, Pilkington writes, these people were the first European civilian settlers. It is June of 1829, and... (full context)
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Family, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon
Pilkington describes a silent war between two captains—James Stirling and Charles Fremantle—who were both vying for... (full context)
Chapter 3: The Decline of Aboriginal Society
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
...taken away to Rottnest Island Penal Colony. They are never seen again. Hundreds of others, Pilkington writes, soon follow them. While some Aboriginal people are able to escape, many Aboriginals are... (full context)
Chapter 4: From the Deserts They Came
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon
Pilkington writes that several tribes compose the Mardudjara people, but all are referred to as Mardu... (full context)
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Pilkington explains that rabbits in particular thrived and multiplied at such an alarming rate in Australia... (full context)
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Family, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
...one of the women in the group, Minden, gives birth to a daughter named Maude. Pilkington writes that Maude grows up in a “warm, loving environment,” playing with relatives in nearby... (full context)
Chapter 5: Jigalong, 1907-1931
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Family, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon
...“missions,” have been set up to “improve the welfare and educational needs” of half-caste children. Pilkington writes that Molly, Gracie, and Daisy were unaware of the government’s designs on them, even... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Journey South
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Family, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon
Pilkington cites two different letters which were sent through the Department of Native Affairs concerning the... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Moore River Native Settlement, 1931
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon
As the girls make their way back to their room,  Pilkington interjects to describe the girls’ miserable surroundings. Their dormitory is more like a concentration camp,... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Escape
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon
Pilkington writes that the conditions at Moore River were so “degrading and inhumane” that anyone living... (full context)
Family, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
...whisper with one another, believing that they have just seen a marbu—a flesh-eating dark spirit. Pilkington writes that the only logical explanation for the phenomenon all three girls witnessed is that... (full context)
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Family, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
...relief and renewal as they begin following the fence toward Jigalong. For the three girls, Pilkington writes, the fence represents proximity to love, home, and security. Molly excitedly tells her sisters... (full context)
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon
...girls where they are going, and they tell him that they are headed to Wiluna. Pilkington writes that Don would later report meeting the girls to his boss, who would then... (full context)
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Family, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Pilkington reveals that Gracie was recaptured soon after returning to Wiluna. She was unable to find... (full context)
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Family, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
The girls’ historic trek took nearly nine weeks. Pilkington writes that Molly, her mother is now in her late seventies. Pilkington is in awe... (full context)
Chapter 9: What Happened to Them? Where are They Now?
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Family, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon
Pilkington reveals that her mother, Molly, worked as a domestic helper at Balfour Downs Station for... (full context)