Our Country’s Good

by

Timberlake Wertenbaker

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Themes and Colors
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Our Country’s Good, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Punishment and Rehabilitation

In Our Country’s Good, a play about convicts and their military guards, Timberlake Wertenbaker challenges the value of straightforward criminal punishment. As Arthur Phillip attempts to govern the first Australian penal colony in 1787, he finds himself at odds with people like Captain Tench, who believe the convicts should be exposed to nothing but punishment and hard labor. Phillip, on the other hand, stresses the importance of exposing the prisoners to culture, asserting…

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Theater, Liberation, and Unity

Above all, Our Country’s Good is a play about the power of art to unite and liberate people. Although the convicts in the penal colony often behave like “animals” who are at odds with one another, the artistic process eventually brings them together, as their commitment to rehearsing The Recruiting Officer overshadows their tendencies to quarrel. What’s more, the play gives the prisoners an escape from their everyday lives, which are unrewarding and bleak. Because…

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Love, Sex, and Power

In Our Country’s Good, Wertenbaker suggests that successful romantic relationships rely upon equal power dynamics. Many of the characters in the play engage in sexual affairs, but very few actually achieve true love. This is because most of the convicts use their sexuality as leverage, having sex with guards in exchange for special treatment. Despite the unemotional nature of these liaisons, though, Wertenbaker intimates that this behavior can lead to complex feelings, as is…

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Governance and Justice

Our Country’s Good showcases Governor Phillip’s quest to create a fair mode of governance in Australia. To do this, he touts the benefits of a healthy judicial system and a just ruling class, upholding that everyone—including criminals—must be treated with respect, since this is the only way to encourage people to actively work toward the establishment of a well-functioning society. This outlook especially applies to the manner in which Phillip and Judge Collins run…

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Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness

Although Our Country’s Good largely deals with the topic of guilt in the context of criminal punishment, Wertenbaker also scrutinizes the kind of guilt that arises from personal regret. In keeping with this, certain characters struggle with their own consciences, finding themselves distraught by the idea that they’re unable to right their past wrongs. In particular, Harry Brewer is haunted by his involvement with the hanging of Handy Baker, who was Duckling’s other…

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