Thea Astley: A Kindness Cup


The latest addition to my website is Thea Astley‘s A Kindness Cup. Astley deals directly with violence in this novel. The story tells of a group of white vigilantes in the early part of the last century who set out to teach a band of aborigines a lesson (nominally for stealing a baby, which they almost certainly did not do) and end up killing seven of them, including a woman. There is an inquiry but it is a mere formality and leads only to a mild reprimand. Some people in the town were and are very much opposed to these vigilantes but seem helpless against them. Twenty years later the town is celebrating a jubilee and one of the men opposing the vigilantes, a teacher called Tom Dorahy, returns to the town he had left, with the express intention of bringing the massacre up and seeking justice and/or revenge. He tries to gain the support of the others who were sympathetic but they are not too enthusiastic and are no match for the strong and still violent vigilantes. It is a strong message from Astley about how the good people are too weak or too afraid to confront such violence and how most of the town’s inhabitants want to pretend it never happened, put it all behind them and carry on with their lives.

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