Ned Kelly is the Australian Robin Hood - an underprivileged and unjustly persecuted man forced against the arm of the law due to injustice. Carey's story is set against the backdrop of the rural outback, and is written as the undiscovered memoirs of the great criminal, left for his daughter to hear his testimony. The memoirs tell how his family were harassed by the racist police, and how they attempted to deal with their problems. Tales of his childhood show how he developed as a young man and shaped him into the most wanted and hunted outlaw in the land.
The book is written as one continuous monologue, and incorporates the regional, rough accent that Carey supposes Kelly would have had.
This report prepared by Mike Harmer
Ned Kelly is arguably Australia's most famous outlaw. This novelization of his life purports to be his story in his own words in a manuscript written to his daughter, but the book is a fictional novel.
Not surprisingly, Kelly does not see himself as the bloodthirsty killer he has been portrayed to be. He's a hard-working farmer, trying to make a go of a government-granted homestead in a state run by wealthy squatters and the “traps” – Australian for police – who maintain order there. Though Ned puts in long hours of hard work, markets rigged against the small farmer and the criminal reputation of the Quinn branch of his wife's family keep him poor and in trouble with the law. His mother “apprentices” him to a notorious highway robber who is also her lover.
Ned tries to go straight, but when his brother gets into trouble with the law for stealing horses, he's back on the path to crime. The Kelly gang's reputation as horse thieves and outlaws grows. After he shoots a police officer who is trying to force himself on Kelly's mother through the hand, he is charged with attempted murder of a police officer, and his mother is jailed as an accessory.
In a shootout at Stringybark Creek in 1878, the gang kills two police officers. Kelly maintains it was self-defence; hundreds of police were combing the area to kill his gang of four outlaws.
Ned Kelly is probably best known for the armor he fashioned for the siege of the town of Glenrowan. Inspired by the American ironclad ship, The Monitor, the armor was crafted from plow blades. It could not be penetrated by the bullets of the time.
Carey adds two artistic touches to give an impression of authenticity to this fictional novel. First, it is written in the ungrammatical style in which an uneducated farm boy might write. Secondly, each "parcel" (chapter) heading describes the paper this part of the memoir is written on. One “parcel,” for instance, consists of “Bank of New South Wales letterhead, 64 sheets of medium stock (8”x10” approx.).” Another is made of “brown wrapping paper, roughly cut into 30 rough pages (4”x8” approx.).”
This "memoir" is described as having been taken by a local schoolmaster during the seige of Glenrowan and turned over to the library in Melbourne.
This report prepared by David Gordon