The Spoken Word: an exercise in dialogue

How does Grenville use dialogue in the text?  What are your initial impressions?

Read this selection of direct speech taken from pages 98-105.  Observe its use.  Consider what it can tell us about:

  • characters (their dreams; views and values; relationships with others)
  • time
  • place
  • mood
  • themes
  • hawksbury river painting

    A European view of the Hawkesbury River


    A. J. Taylor
    Last Light Hawkesbury River

Blackwood Thornhill Smasher
Where the river comes out

Our Hawkesbury

They call this Broken Bay

River comes in yonder

Best hidden river in the world

Never find your way in nor you’d been shown like I’m showing you

See yonder?

Oysters, the shells

Suck the guts out, chuck the shells away.  Been doing it since the year dot.

And fish!  My word they get the fish.

Not putting none by.

Why would they?  River ain’t going nowhere.

Every-bloody-where, mate

They seen us alright

Now they’re telling the others, up the line.

One thing you best know, only time we see them is when they want us to.

Smasher Sullivan

Come out on the Minstrel along of me

Burns the shells for the lime

Plus does a lot of mischief besides.

Damn your eyes, Smasher

Get on that other damned oar, Thornhill.  Look sharp man.

Ain’t nothin in this world just for the taking.

A man got to pay a fair price for the taking.

Matter of give a little, take a little.

Got my place up there a ways.

Where that First Branch come in.

Got myself a pardon, be two years this summer

Best pardon money could buy.

Picked meself out a hundred acres.

Catch a few fish, grow a bit of corn, brew a bit of rotgut, I can please myself

Not a matter of ask up here mate

Get your backside on a bit of ground, sit tight.  That’s all the asking you got to do.

I seen you looking

That back there

That ain’t no good

Give a little, take a little, that’s the only way

Otherwise you’re dead as a flea

Not putting none by?

For tomorrow, like?

Where are they, then?

How’s that?

They give you a hundred acres just for the asking?

Got no argument with that

Got the bugger!

Leaned that poxy thief

Learned him good and proper!

Look what I done

Last time that bugger thieves from me


  • Vocabulary
  • Sentence structure: read about sentence structure in this handout Tredinick-Subordinating_Sentences .  Look particularly at Sentence Fragments as you consider dialogue since you will have noticed that these are predominantly sentence fragments.


  1. Write a 300 word piece that centres on an interaction between two characters from the text at a moment in time not recorded in the text (an imagined instance/a moment after the action of the book.   The dialogue will sit within the description of setting and action. It should draw on what you have considered about the structure and nature of dialogue and what it can reveal.  You can choose from the following pairs:


Mrs Herring and Sal

Dick and Thornhill

Sal and Dick

Sal and Long Jack

Blackwood and Dick

Bub  and Dick

Dick and a stranger to the area