How is belonging explored in the book, The chant of Jimmie Blacksmith?

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kimfuji eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, by Thomas Keneally is the story of Jimmie Blacksmith who killed many people in a violent rage in 1900 in Australia because of how he was treated growing up, in particular, racial discrimmination. However racial discrimmination is not the only reason for his rejection by society. Jimmy never felt like he belonged anywhere; and he always chose to leave his past behind and strike out anew. However there are consequences for this behavior which is never establishing roots and/or feeling a sense of belonging.

Jimmie is initiated into the Mungindi tribe, but he is disillusioned and leaves with a reverend and his wife who urge him to abandon his background and associate with whites but the whites do not want him. In this situation, Jimmie is portrayed as a man with a weak identity. He allows himself to leave a people who have embraced him and accepted him. In addition, he believes the reverend and his wife when they suggest what he do in the future. He tries to engratiate himself with whites but it doesn't work.

Jimmie does not feel he belongs but this is, in part, due to his own internal feelings of unacceptance.

Jimmie has an affair with a white chamber maid who becomes pregnant. They arrange to marry and have a family but he realizes the baby isn't his.

Jimmie's tribal relatives bring him his initiation tooth as a way to protect him from harm, since they believe that the white marriage is harmful to his spirit. However, Mr. Newby kicks out his relatives and does not pay him the money he is owed.

Jimmie's anger is too much for him to control and he seeks revenge by killing Mr. Newby's wife, daughters, and a schoolteacher, Miss Graf.

Jimmie also acts out his rage on the Healy family who he worked for, who also cheated him. He and Mort are very nearly caught. They even take a hostage who happens to be a school teacher. The wise teacher makes Jimmie realize he should go on alone. Jimmie attempts to cross a river and is shot. He hides out in a convent but eventually is discovered. He is awaiting death by hanging at the end of the novel.

Jimmie's story can serve as a warning about what can happen if a person does not embrace their true spirit, and stay where they belong.

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The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith

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