‘Some people seek conflict, while others avoid it’ Conflict is a common occurrence in today’s society, but how do people react to it? So some people run off conflict, therefore seeking as much of it as they can while others do not like the adverse outcomes usually associated with conflict and tend to stray away. The way that people react to conflict can be dependant on their upbringing and character. Kate Grenville’s ‘The Secret River’ presents readers with characters whom are constantly surrounded by conflict, but react differently to it.
William Thornhill is a character whom has come across conflict throughout periods of his life and knows of its consequences, due to this he prefers to avoid conflict. Smasher Sullivan is a man who is very vocal with his dislike of the natives and likes to create tension between not only himself and the natives, but between the local communities of Europeans. These two characters are examples of attitudes taken towards conflict, as people tend to react differently to things such as conflict based on their character and experiences.
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William Thornhill is a man who has experienced conflict in his life. Readers do not know directly, but coming from a poor upbringing it can be assumed he has witnessed conflict on different levels. From his past experiences, readers observe Thornhill as a man to avoid conflict. This is shown multiple times throughout the text as he often chooses to avoid communication with his wife regarding the issue of ‘where home is’ and he takes a neutral stance on the natives. For the most part, Thornhill is one to avoid conflict as he is aware of the consequences.
However, during the climax of the book he is among the conflict (massacre of the natives). Through his actions during the event, readers are further shown that he is a man who chooses to avoid conflict as it brings about negative outcomes. This is further elaborated on as Thornhill doesn’t celebrate the event, but rather looks away from it and would rather forget it. In contrast to William, we have Smasher Sullivan a character who enjoys conflict and seeks it multiple times throughout the narrative. His craving for conflict can be explained by his character. Smasher is a man who thinks ighly of himself and seeks to prove that he is better/right in any situation he is involved in. Conflict just opens opportunities for Smasher to do this, so he advocates conflict. Smasher takes a firm stance against the aboriginals and expresses this throughout the story in a strong manner. In doing so he is seeking conflict, as some people will not take his ideals in the same manner he has. He aggravates Tom Blackwood to a large extent, which ultimate leads to a physical, although short confrontation between the two individuals. Drawing from this, Smasher uses it as a reason to further create conflict.
This leads to the climax of the book in which a massacre against the natives takes place. It can be argued that Smasher’s seeking of conflict is what caused this; confrontation is not the only way to prove a point. People will react and think differently towards conflict. It is dependant one ones experiences and characters. Through The Secret River, readers are shown two differing examples of individuals who run and seek conflict. Conflict is a complex issue and has a range of outcomes and causes, which leads to people reacting differently to conflict surrounding them.