The novel focuses on the effect of colonialism on Australian native people (Aborigines) and how the conflict between the settlers and the natives came about.
This book provides examples of:
- Foil: Blackwood becomes a heroic foil to Thornhill.
- Heel Realisation: A halfway one. Thornhill realizes that what he is doing is evil, but in the same paragraph says he is "not an evil man".
- Obviously Evil: When we are introduced to Smasher Sullivan, he is standing by the body of a man he killed for stealing a cob of his corn.
- Purple Prose: Parodied with the letter to Lord Hawkesbury and with Loveday. Played straight a lot.
- Settling the Frontier: With an emphasis on how the settlers interacted with the native population.