The Secret River

by

Kate Grenville

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Secret River can help.

Thomas Blackwood Character Analysis

When Thornhill first meets Thomas Blackwood in London, he owns a lighter called the River Queen, which has a false bottom for stealing cargo. Thornhill runs into him later in New South Wales, where Blackwood is not only making his fortune honestly, he has also received a full pardon and owns land on the Hawkesbury River where he makes rum. Blackwood is a quiet and private man who speaks in riddles when he speaks at all. He tells Thornhill that when dealing with the Aborigines, he has to remember that nothing is free: if a person takes something, they must be willing to give a little in return. Thornhill learns the extent of this when he goes to speak to Blackwood about the natives living on his own property and discovers that Blackwood lives on the very edge of his lagoon and doesn't venture into the forest because the natives told him to stay by the river. Thornhill also learns that Blackwood has an Aboriginal lover and the two have a child, and that Blackwood has learned the native language to communicate with them. Blackwood despises men like Smasher and Sagitty, who deal violently and cruelly with the natives. He avoids them whenever possible and eventually attacks Smasher for speaking violently about the natives. After the massacre, Thornhill’s second oldest son, Dick, goes to live with Blackwood and ferry rum up the river for him. Thornhill visits him occasionally after the massacre, but never sees the woman or Blackwood's child again.

Thomas Blackwood Quotes in The Secret River

The The Secret River quotes below are all either spoken by Thomas Blackwood or refer to Thomas Blackwood. 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:
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Canongate edition of The Secret River published in 2007.
Part 2: Sydney Quotes

King George owned this whole place of New South Wales, the extent of which nobody yet knew, but what was the point of King George owning it, if it was still wild, trodden only by black men? The more civilized folk set themselves up on their pieces of land, the more those other ones could be squeezed out.

Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: A Hundred Acres Quotes

How did it apply to a moment like the one down by the blacks' fire, when a white man and a black one had tried to make sense of each other with nothing but words that were no use to them?

Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Secret River LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Secret River PDF

Thomas Blackwood Character Timeline in The Secret River

The timeline below shows where the character Thomas Blackwood appears in The Secret River. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: London
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...They were all thieves, though some were certainly better than others. The narrator mentions Thomas Blackwood, a successful thief who owns a lighter (a type of boat) with a false bottom... (full context)
Part 2: Sydney
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
In Sydney Cove, Thornhill runs into many acquaintances from the Thames. He meets Thomas Blackwood again, who insists, when Thornhill explains the circumstances that brought him to New South Wales,... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...by farming or transporting farmers' crops. It's very remote, however, and populated by warlike natives. Blackwood says nothing when Thornhill asks about the "outrages and depredations" reported by the Sydney Gazette. (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...takes on a new clerk who keeps detailed lists and begins to notice things missing. Blackwood's convict servant fell overboard a few weeks before Christmas, and Thornhill doesn't hesitate to take... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Blackwood skillfully navigates the boat into the small bay, and Thornhill searches for the mouth of... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Blackwood and Thornhill continue up the winding river until they reach a bay. Blackwood calls out... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
When Blackwood speaks, he angrily says that men have to pay a fair price to take things.... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...imagines standing there and calling it Thornhill's Point, but acts as though he doesn't care. Blackwood sees through this façade and tells Thornhill that the land is no good, and tells... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
A year later, Blackwood decides to retire to his place on the river, but he takes Thornhill to get... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...from a man in the cove. Sal says that she read in the Gazette that Blackwood is selling his boat for 160 pounds but will take less, and tells Thornhill to... (full context)
Part 3: A Clearing in the Forest
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Smasher notices Blackwood coming up the river. Smasher and Sagitty exchange a hard glance as Blackwood walks up... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...loudly that the natives stole from him the night before. As though he didn't hear, Blackwood motions to Thornhill's cornfield and notes that he dug up the daisies. Blackwood explains that... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Smasher yells that the natives are dishonest thieves, and Blackwood insults Smasher's own honesty. Blackwood turns to Thornhill and tells him again that he needs... (full context)
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...river bring gifts of food and alcohol, but Sal doesn't begin to look better until Blackwood arrives with jellied eels. The day after, Sal is sitting up when Thornhill wakes. She... (full context)
Part 4: A Hundred Acres
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
...she won't stand for them coming and not going. She asks him to go ask Blackwood about it. (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Thornhill struggles to find a place to land his boat at Blackwood's encampment. He notices that Blackwood hasn't cleared his land at all; the hut and corn... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...with the natives. He thinks "give a little, take a little" is still very vague. Blackwood stands up and seems done, but Thornhill hears a woman's voice coming from the clearing.... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...Thornhill. He yells that he knows that he's been friendly with the natives, along with Blackwood. Thornhill yells that Smasher knows nothing, but feels panicky. Smasher tells Thornhill that the natives... (full context)
Part 5: Drawing a Line
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
...Smasher asks if Thornhill is too good for free sex. He says that even Thomas Blackwood sleeps with a black woman, and Thornhill feels breathless. He yells to Smasher that he... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...way to the lit hut, where he finds Sal entertaining Smasher, Mrs. Herring, Sagitty, Loveday, Blackwood, and another neighbor. When Thornhill enters, Sagitty and Smasher tell him about Spider: while Spider... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...to pay for what they're doing. Smasher recounts shooting two natives the week before, and Blackwood snaps. He yells that one native is worth ten of Smasher and storms out. Thornhill... (full context)
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...which Loveday reads to a group of settlers at Thornhill's one night. Smasher, Sagitty, and Blackwood are there, and Dan and Ned look on. Loveday reads that if the natives trespass... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Blackwood rushes at Smasher and shoves Smasher's head into the table. He punches Smasher several times... (full context)
Part 6: The Secret River
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...get them. Thornhill imagines being speared as Smasher says that the natives are camping at Blackwood's place. He continues that if they leave now, they can "settle" the natives by morning.... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
...near his own place to wait for the tide to turn to take them to Blackwood's place. Thornhill looks at them all and thinks that he never thought they were bad... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...it out. As the tide turns, Thornhill lets the Hope glide up the river towards Blackwood's place. Thornhill thinks of the black woman at Blackwood's, but tries to think of Sagitty... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...Thornhill points his gun at people, but doesn't shoot. He hears a shout and sees Blackwood coming out of his hut with his own gun aimed at Smasher. Smasher flicks his... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...bodies all around. Thornhill hears a baby cry, and Dan clubs it until it's quiet. Blackwood is still alive, but is motionless. Smasher refuses help until he dies, leaning on the... (full context)
Part 6: Mr. Thornhill's Villa
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...his silence is part of the silence between them that began when he returned from Blackwood's. Thornhill thinks sometimes that he didn't realize that unsaid words could create so much distance... (full context)
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Now, Blackwood still lives in his hut. Mr. Thornhill occasionally takes Blackwood food and tobacco, and glances... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Dick moves into Blackwood's hut with him. Some on the river suggest that Mr. Thornhill sent Dick to take... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...only black man still living near the Thornhills on the river. He'd been shot at Blackwood's but didn't die. One of his legs drags and he shows no emotion or pain.... (full context)