In life there is nothing greater than to have someone by your side supporting you no matter what

In life there is nothing greater than to have someone by your side supporting you no matter what. In the novel The Secret River by Kate Grenville a strong bond is formed between the characters William and Sal Thornhill. They become a ambitious duo whilst living in London dreaming of one day escaping their poverty. However when their world is turned upside down and Will is deported to New South Wales for theft their love is put to the test. The new harsh world that is presented to the couple in Australia changes their love along with their individual ideas.

William Thornhill is not the sort of character that is born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He is in one of the lowest classes of Victorian England. Sal Thornhill fell in love with William at a young age and married him quickly as well. She is a saucy woman that faces adversity with a sense of humor and resolve. Even when disaster strikes in the form of a cold snap that freezes the Thames over the couple are still able to keep it together. However when Will resorts to stealing an incoming shipment of Brazilian Wood and is caught, Sal stays by his side not willing to lose him. “You will get out of this, Will, … They ain’t going to get you, not if I got anything to do with it,” This shows the power of the love Sal has for Will, willing to defend him even though he is guilty. She manages to reduce his sentence from death to deportation to New South Wales.

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Once the couple arrive in New South Wales Sal becomes Will’s master as he must work in order to apply for his ticket of leave which will see him become pardoned. Will goes back to the only job he’s good at which is being a waterman delivering supplies around New South Wales. Sal on the other hand opens a bar called Sign of the Pickle Herring in their home. The name of the bar shows readers Sal’s homesickness as the Pickle Herring is an actual bar in London, as well as this she tells Will that with the profits made from the bar she hopes to buy a ticket to return to London. Will however has his eyes on a piece of land and promises to Sal that if they move there the family will move back to England in five years. Sal agrees to this however the relationship between Sal and Will weakens after moving to Thornhill’s Point. Grenville effectively conveys the effect Australia has had on Will in the moment where he is about to strike Sal. “He saw that she did not recognise him. Some violent man was pulling at her, shouting at her, the stranger within the heart of her husband,” this highlights the change of his identity. Thornhill’s belligerent desire to attack Sal physically affects the relationship with Sal, which forms a deeper rift in their conflicting relationship. Thornhill also questions himself, “What curse had come down on his life, that he was full of rage at his own Sal?” This effective use of a rhetorical question displays Thornhill reconsidering his morals. As a result, the compelling use of these literary devices highlights the importance of a person’s physical and psychological relationship with the world around them in shaping their sense of identity.

After settling into Cobham Hall, the separation between William Thornhill and his wife, Sal creates a great rupture in their once perfect relationship. The lack of communication between Thornhill and Sal, generates further division between each other as Sal. Whenever Sal brings up to Will the topic of returning to London, “He let the phrase go when she used it, turning the conversation elsewhere,” this indicates that William is unable to be true to his word and feels a sense of guilt, avoiding the topic. This lack of intimacy between the two shows how much Australia has changed Will with the idea of a prosperous life overriding the promise he made to his wife. This makes readers empathise with Sal as it is Will’s wrongdoings that landed her in the situation in the first place.


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