Characterisation of Nelly

The most important characters in the short story “Heart is Where the Home is” by Thea Astley are Nelly, the Laffeys, and the policemen. The other Aboriginals are relevant for the social setting and for giving the story authenticity, so we will not deal with them in this part of the study guide.

Nelly is the main character of this story, as the narrative follows her (her actions, thoughts, and memories).

Outer characterisation

Her outer characterisation indicates she is a young Aboriginal mother, married to Jackie Mumbler, the son of Bidgi Mumbler: “Bidgi Mumbler's daughter-in-law grabbed her little boy...” 

She has a “bony body”  and works for the Laffeys from time to time: "She'd been there, too, now and then, help washin, cleanin, when young Missus Laffey makin all them pickles an things." 

Inner characterisation

Her inner characterisation presents her as a protective mother, determined to save her son from being taken by state authorities. When her cousin’s daughter was taken away, she tried to comfort the woman to help her accept the situation, but when put in the same position, she does everything she can to keep Charley, her boy: " ‘You'll have other baby,’ Nelly Mumbler comforted her. ‘You'll have other baby.’ " 

The other women got scared, fixed to the spot like they grow there, all shakin and whimperin. Stuck. ‘You'll be trouble,’ they warned. ‘You'll be trouble.’
‘Don't care," she said. "They not takin my kid.’ 

During her flight through the forest and up to the Laffey property, Nelly comes across as frightened and desperate, l...

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