Our Country’s Good

by

Timberlake Wertenbaker

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Our Country’s Good: Act One, Scene Seven Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
While rowing in the cove with Duckling, Harry tries to get her to talk by mentioning how much Sydney is beginning to turn into a real town. However, she remains silent, despite his many attempts to engage her. When he says that he thought she’d like going for a row, she says she wishes she were on the Thames. “This isn’t Newgate, Duckling,” Harry reminds her, and she says she wishes it were. “At least the gaoler of Newgate left you alone and you could talk to people,” she bitterly remarks. In his defense, Harry reminds her that he allows her to speak to other female convicts, but she complains that he doesn’t let her actually go into the “women’s camp.” “It’s not the women you’re after in the women’s camp, it’s the marines who come looking for buttock,” Harry says.
Once more, Harry’s jealousy gets in the way of his relationship with Duckling. Using his authority to assume a domineering position in her life, he forbids her from seeing other men. Their relational dynamic suffers as a result of this attitude, since Harry’s overbearing ways are constant reminders that he has more power than she does in this context. At the same time, she exercises a certain kind of power by refusing to talk to him—something that clearly torments him. Again, relationships with uneven power dynamics are presented as emotionally fraught.
Themes
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Harry accuses Duckling of having another lover, like she did when she was involved with Handy Baker. He calls her a “filthy whore,” but then immediately apologizes and asks her not to be angry. In response, she tells him that she hates how often he watches her. This makes Harry angry, but Duckling quickly endears herself to him by reminding him that he loves it when she touches him where he “like[s] it.” She tells him that she simply needs some freedom, to which he responds, “You have to earn your freedom with good behavior.” She says he should have just let her die, saying he could have taken her dead body and kept it under his watch at all times. “I wish I was dead,” she says. “At least when you’re dead, you’re free.”
When Duckling sweet-talks Harry, she uses his own desires against him, ultimately finding a way to use her sexual appeal to her benefit. Although he’s technically in a position of authority because he’s a guard and she’s a prisoner, it becomes clear in this moment that Duckling is the one who truly holds the power. In fact, she doesn’t only use sex to her own benefit, but also weaponizes Harry’s tendency to feel guilty, saying that she wishes she were dead as a way of further disarming him (though she might also actually feel this way).
Themes
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Harry is taken aback by Duckling’s comment about wishing she were dead. To cheer her up, he suggests that she join Ralph’s play. He then explains that Dabby Bryant and Liz Morden are also in the cast, and Duckling agrees to participate. “How is Lieutenant Clark going to manage Liz Morden?” she asks, and Harry says that Governor Phillip specifically asked for her to be cast. Moving on, Duckling remembers how she and the other women used to try to get Ralph to blush when they were on the convict ship. Unsettled by this comment, Harry makes her promise that she won’t “try anything” with Ralph.
The fact that Governor Phillip wanted Liz Morden to be in the play is worth noting, as it once more demonstrates his belief that people can change, since Liz is the most misbehaved of the convict characters. Harry’s suggestion that Duckling join the play is yet another sign that she is the one who holds the power in their relationship, since her sudden display of sadness—when she said she wished she were dead—is what prompted him to give her more “freedom” than he would have otherwise been comfortable with.
Themes
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon