True History of the Kelly Gang Summary

Peter Carey


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

True History of the Kelly Gang gives the bushranger Ned Kelly a chance to tell his own story in the form of a long letter to his daughter in San Francisco. Kelly’s father was a former convict, transported to Tasmania; Kelly has no idea what his father’s crime might have been. He met Kelly’s mother, Ellen, in a town called Donnybrook, and they determined to marry. Her family, the Quinns, were habitual criminals who constantly drew the attention of the police. Ellen Quinn was unaware that her husband was a former criminal, but the police knew, subjected his family to much attention, and attempted to blackmail Ellen for sexual favors. Kelly’s father is finally imprisoned when he takes the blame for young Kelly’s theft and butchering of a cow, although he is in fact prosecuted for removing a brand from the hide. He is released as a favor after Kelly saves a local man’s son from drowning, but he is a broken man and dies shortly after.

At twelve, Kelly finds himself the man of the family and struggles to lead a law-abiding life through farming and breaking horses. His mother, meanwhile, opens a drinking den and, it is suggested, also works as a prostitute. The family moves around, supported by the extended Quinn family, finally settling in the Glenrowan area, where they have bought some land and become “selectors,” or settlers. However, they live in great poverty and remain targets for the local police. Young Ned is temporarily apprenticed to...

(The entire section is 573 words.)