The Secret River

by

Kate Grenville

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Willie is Thornhill and Sal's first baby. He's born in London about a year after they marry. After being relocated with his parents to New South Wales, Willie adjusts to his new life quickly, although he is the only Thornhill child to remember London. He begins working with Thornhill on the Hope when he's 11 and is a natural waterman. After the Thornhills move to the Hawkesbury, Willie begins to show that he listens to Smasher when Smasher calls: he often tells Thornhill to "show the natives the gun," and seems more prone to violence than peaceful coexistence.

Willie Quotes in The Secret River

The The Secret River quotes below are all either spoken by Willie or refer to Willie. 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 3: A Clearing in the Forest Quotes

Thornhill saw that although this voyage, from Sydney to Thornhill's Point, had taken only a day, and the other voyage, from London to Sydney, had taken the best part of the year, this was the greater distance. From the perspective of this unpeopled riverbank...Sydney seemed a metropolis, different only in degree from London.

Related Characters: William Thornhill, Sal Thornhill, Willie
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

Dick would be right, he thought, except that everyone knew the blacks did not plant things. They wandered about, taking food as it came under their hand...But, like children, they did not plant today so that they could eat tomorrow.
It was why they were called savages.

Related Characters: William Thornhill, Willie, Dick
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 5: Drawing a Line Quotes

He knew, as perhaps they did not, how pointless a thing it was. He could go through the rigmarole of loading it up and squinting along its barrel and firing. But after that, what?

Related Symbols: Guns
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Secret River LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Secret River PDF

Willie Character Timeline in The Secret River

The timeline below shows where the character Willie 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
...birth to a boy a year later. Though they christen him William, they call him Willie. Thornhill loves Willie, and loves watching Sal care for him. When Willie is two, winter... (full context)
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Sal, Lizzie, and Mary visit Thornhill in the Newgate prison. Sal brings Willie, who's four, but Thornhill asks her to not bring him again. They also bring food,... (full context)
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...The clerk accompanying the reader asks for Thornhill’s wife’s name, and says that she and Willie have also been granted passage to New South Wales. (full context)
Part 2: Sydney
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
...back. Minutes later, Thornhill hears his name called and the guard "assigns" him to Sal. Willie doesn't seem to recognize his father. Now, Thornhill gets to look at the new baby,... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...Sal for all those months at sea. The family finally goes into the hut, and Willie insists on sleeping next to Sal. When he finally drifts off, Sal and Thornhill embrace... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...return to England in a few years. At the sound of their parents’ raised voices, Willie and Dick wake up and watch the two argue. Thornhill is proud that each of... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...and Sal comes to see it with the new baby. The Hope is perfect, and Willie begins working with Thornhill now that he's eleven. The two spend much of their time... (full context)
Part 3: A Clearing in the Forest
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...to land now rather than sleep in the Hope for the night. He snaps at Willie to help, and the boy obeys. When they reach the shore, Thornhill jumps out of... (full context)
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Thornhill, Willie, and Dick struggle to erect a canvas tent and manage to do so just before... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...why it doesn't make him feel safe to have it. Thornhill studies the stars and Willie suddenly suggests that the natives might be watching them, though Thornhill quickly shushes him. When... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
At sunrise, Thornhill, Willie, and Dick walk down to a flat, clear strip of land by the river with... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Calmly, Thornhill tells his sons that moles or hogs must have dug up the dirt. Willie hears his father, but Dick says that savages planted the daisies while Willie tries to... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Hoeing is difficult. Thornhill sweats in the full sun, Willie hoes madly, and Dick dreamily scratches at one spot of dirt for minutes at a... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Suddenly, Willie and Dick run down the hill with the corn seeds. They stop when they see... (full context)
Social Order, Hierarchy, and Class Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...some of the coins in his pocket. As he reaches into his pocket, he hears Willie yell at the older man to give the spade back. Willie rushes the man and... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Thornhill yells "No!" and runs over to Willie. He slaps the old man's shoulder and continues to shout "No! No! No!" as he... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...find it surrounded by spears stuck into the ground. He quickly gathers them up, but Willie sees. Thornhill assures Willie that if the natives wanted to kill them, they would've, but... (full context)
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...keeping count of the days on a tree near the tent. Thornhill hears her telling Willie that they'll be here for 260 weeks. He hopes that she'll stop counting, but she... (full context)
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Within two weeks, the corn sprouts. Willie and Dick water the plants while Sal tethers Bub and Johnny in the yard to... (full context)
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...at the base of the ridge. From there, he can see Sal washing clothes and Willie standing still instead of hoeing. Thornhill yells to Willie, but the vastness of the land... (full context)
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...crude it barely keeps the wilderness out: one morning, a black snake crawls out of Willie and Dick's mattress. They all watch it go silently, and then Sal tells Willie and... (full context)
Part 4: A Hundred Acres
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
In December of 1913, as Thornhill approaches his property on the river, Willie runs down wildly and says that the natives have arrived, though nobody's dead yet. He... (full context)
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Willie is the only child who knows anything of London. To the others, London is just... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Willie tries to skin the kangaroo leg, but his knife can't cut through the skin. Thornhill... (full context)
Part 5: Drawing a Line
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...begin to cry with fear, even though Thornhill insists that the natives won't hurt them. Willie tells his father to show them the gun, but Dick gets up and says that... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Language, Literacy, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
...engaging with the women, and Thornhill buys three more guns and teaches Ned, Dan, and Willie how to shoot. Ned is a natural with the gun, while Dan prefers to use... (full context)