Deconstructing an Australian Icon - Ned Kelly

Essay by avioletfluidCollege, Undergraduate March 2004

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If you went into any Australian classroom and asked if anyone knew who Ned Kelly was, chances are you'd get an answer of something like: "mm yeah, that bushranger who had the steel bucket on his head who got shot". Not many people know the real story, but it is an intriguing one. Ned Kelly has, over the years, been described as a hero, "one of the most romantic figures in history", "the father of our national courage", an Australian icon. To a person with no knowledgeable background of Ned Kelly, he would be seen as exactly that. The real truth is though, Ned Kelly was a thief. He held ordinary people hostage, and shot and killed policemen. The reasons to why he has been glorified in such a way to be called a hero have been one of the great controversies of all time.

Ned Kelly was born into a life that was surrounded by crime.

Before he was born, his parents were sent from Ireland on a convict ship to Australia for committing petty crime. He entered life in 1854 in Victoria, and attended school at Avenel until age 12 when his father died. Ned's family was poor, and were forced to own land as 'selectors', where they were issued a piece of land to be paid off while they were living there. The land was small and the soil wasn't good enough to grow to make a living. Many of the 'selectors' resorted to stealing horses and cattle from the rich squatters, and Ned Kelly was no exception. At age sixteen he was convicted of receiving a stolen horse and served time in jail for three years.

In 1878, Ned's mother, Ellen was convicted of wounding a policeman by shooting him in the wrist. Ned and his...