Deadly Unna Essays

The following essay was written by EH, and was in response to

the topic:

‘Deadly Unna? shows how powerful words and labels can be.’  Do

 you agree?



‘Deadly Unna’ shows that words and labels can be powerful. It also promotes the idea that labels can affect how people see themselves and each other. ‘Deadly Unna’ depicts that words can be powerful enough to lead to prejudice, influence someone’s decision and outwit or amaze people. Words can illustrate the personality of a character, however words aren’t always powerful. ‘Deadly Unna’ suggests that they don’t always have an effect on people.  



‘Deadly Unna’ shows that when an individual is labelled, it can permanently alter or influence how people see them and how they see themselves. To Blacky’s old man, Blacky is a ‘gutless wonder’, which is the worst thing a teenage boy can be in the ‘Port’. The book states on page 9 ‘Once you’ve been labelled a ‘gutless wonder’, then that’s it, the label sticks.’ Being called a ‘gutless wonder’ makes Blacky feel weak. He continually tries to make up for his mistake but Blacky’s dad doesn’t give him the chance. When Blacky tells the story about him and a shark it proves that labels are powerful. On page 9, Blacky says he could save 12 children from a shark and he could die, but he wouldn’t be remembered as a hero. He would be remembered as a ‘gutless wonder’. No matter what he did the name would stick. Labels are powerful because when someone is labelled something, they feel like it. In Blacky’s case when he is called a gutless wonder, he feels like a ‘gutless wonder’. Whether Blacky’s actually acts like a ‘gutless wonder’ or not, the label makes him feel like one. Words and labels are also powerful because being labelled a ‘Nunga’ or ‘Boong’ changes how people see them. It doesn’t matter if they are the nicest person on the planet – if they’re black, they’re different. On page 194, a crowd of people are talking about the pub shooting. Some are saying ‘Boongs, that’s all I know.’, ‘Serves ‘em right, I reckon.’ and ‘Big Mac did the right thing.’. Two of the robbers are shot and they die yet the people from the ‘Port’ don’t have any sympathy for them. This is because they’re a ‘Nunga’!



In addition, words and labels can be powerful enough to lead to discrimination and they can influence people’s behaviour and perspectives. This is shown when Blacky listens to the stories told at the front bar and takes them seriously. On page 222 it says ‘According to the front bar the first thing Nungas do when they move to a new house is rip the doors off their hinges and smash all the windows. Blacky says ‘So that was the image I had in my head.’ This suggests that people take what the blokes in the front bar say seriously. These people then have a set image in their head. They have never actually seen a Nunga’s house but it’s what they’ve been told so they believe it. When Blacky goes to Dumby’s funeral he sees the ‘Point’ for himself and it isn’t what he expects. The words of others are powerful enough to set an image in Blacky’s head that isn’t even real. The houses have doors and windows, and because of this, Blacky realises that what people say aren’t always true. The most powerful words used in ‘Deadly Unna’ are ‘BOONGS PISS OFF’ because it affects Blacky deep inside. Seeing it makes him feel uncomfortable and embarrassed especially since he is in company of a black person. You can see this on pages 121 and 122. The text states that the graffiti bothers Blacky. It makes him feel guilty. At this point Blacky is with Clarence who is a Nunga. Blacky says ‘I feel guilty in some way. I hadn’t written it yet I hadn’t scratched it out either.’ On page 121 it says ‘If you wrote something like ‘MONICA IS A SLUT” then it wouldn’t last very long, maybe a week, but ‘BOONGS PISS OFF’ had been there for ages’. In the ‘Port’ it seems that “BOONGS PISS OFF’ is worse and more powerful than writing ‘MONICA IS A SLUT’. It reflects on the sort of town the ‘Port’ is – racist. The words ‘BOONGS PISS OFF’ are so powerful that they have never been scratched out. This is because of the racism that’s within the ‘Port’. It is a part of their normal lifestyle. Everyone sees ‘MONICA IS A SLUT’ and thinks it isn’t right. But with ‘BOONGS PISS OFF’ it’s different because they see it and it doesn’t bother them. Everyone, even Blacky thinks it’s ok, that is until Blacky creates a friendship with a Nunga. His attitude towards Nungas changes and he sees everything from a different perspective. He realises that ‘Nungas’ are just like him. Blacky believes that it’s wrong to have these words scratched on the wall for everyone to see. The people who say ‘BOONGS PISS OFF’ or something racist, aren’t the people Blacky wants to hang around with. He wants to be with people who are themselves and aren’t racist. Racism is also what causes Blacky’s dream. Blacky’s dream in Chapter 38 and his actions to get rid of the graffiti are both inflicted by three words –‘BOONGS PISS OFF’. In the dream on pages 257 and 258, Blacky wants to show Dumby something but everywhere they go, they’re surrounded by the words ‘BOONGS PISS OFF’. Eventually there are hundreds of Slogs scribbling the words everywhere. This dream shows these three words can cause racism to grow throughout the community and the world. One person can say them or write the words but it affects thousands. People learn the words and they too start saying them without knowing the true meaning behind them. It will become like a disease. It will spread and soon lots of people will speak the words without any consideration of other people’s feelings, especially black people’s feelings. ‘BOONGS PISS OFF’ also causes Blacky to do what he does. He steals his dad’s keys, takes his best paint brushes and paint and stands up to his dad. If he didn’t have the anger the words give him, he wouldn’t have had the courage to stand up to his dad the way he does.



Words are also powerful because they can influence someone’s decision. One comment from a character off a TV show influences Blacky’s decision to go to Dumby’s funeral. On page 214, Blacky sits down to watch ‘The Brady Brunch’. Greg (one of the kids) is explaining a problem to Mike (the dad) and Mike’s advice is ‘to do what your heart tells you.’ The advice makes Blacky go into thinking mode and he makes up his mind. He’s going to the funeral no matter how many people disagree with him. The words make such a difference for Blacky. He may have made the same decision in the end without the advice but hearing it made everything so clear for him. Also on page 171, Blacky says ‘I’d gone through it I don’t know how many times since that talk with Darcy.’ Blacky is having girl problems and gets some advice off Darcy. What Darcy says influences Blacky’s decision to put his towel down next to Cathy’s.



Further more, words can be used to outsmart and impress people. On page 187, one of the Macca kids ask Cathy what the word ‘transmogrify’ means. She doesn’t know the answer but Blacky does. Cathy is impressed by how smart he is. Blacky is also able to outsmart a lot of people in ‘Deadly Unna’ by lying. On page 208, Blacky tells Cathy that he will see her tomorrow at her barbeque but he knows he’s not going. She believes him and as the text states on page 245, Cathy isn’t happy. She believes that Blacky is coming but he doesn’t turn up. He lies once again to Cathy on page 192 to outsmart her. He wants to hide the fact that he knows a black girl. He tells Cathy he doesn’t know her when the truth is, he does know her. She believes him, so it proves that words are powerful because they can outsmart and impress people.



Words are also powerful as names can describe a character. The name ‘Pickles Mickle’ really gives an insight of what the character is going to be like. His name is powerful because we can tell a lot from it. Pickles Mickle sounds like a disgusting sort of kid. Pickles are a disliked food so it sounds as if the character is a disliked person. Of course there are a few odd people who like pickles so Pickles Mickle has a few friends. On page 60 the text shows that Pickles is disgusting. It says ‘His hair was a rat’s nest. He never cleaned his teeth – they always looked like he’d just eaten a bowl of pond slime. His fingernails were filthy. He farted constantly and a Pickles’ fart would clear a room in five seconds flat. And his undies had more skid marks than the Grand Prix circuit.’ The name represents the character so it’s an important and powerful thing.



Words and labels can be powerful however ‘Deadly Unna’ shows that words aren’t always powerful. Words can be said but not meant. On page 26, Blacky says ‘Piss off he’s not me mate, I hate his guts.’ But he doesn’t spit this time because he doesn’t mean it. He claims not to like Dumby but the fact is he does! Also, people can say something to someone but the words aren’t powerful enough for them to obey or listen. On pages 204 – 207, Blacky wants to go to Dumby’s funeral and his mum, Arks, Dazza and Pickles all disagree with him. They all have different reasons but come to the same conclusion – don’t go to the funeral. No matter how many people tell Blacky not to go, he still attends. In this case, words are not powerful because Blacky goes against what everyone else tells him to do.



‘Deadly Unna’ shows that words and labels can be powerful but they aren’t always. Words and labels can lead to changes in perspectives, injustice and can persuade someone’s decision. ‘Deadly Unna’ also proves that words don’t always have an effect on people. By writing this book, Phillip Gwynne is trying to show that racism exists everywhere and it can affect people directly or indirectly. You have a choice to go along with the racism or go against it and ‘Deadly Unna’ shows you should stand up and go against it. In the ‘Point’ and the ‘Port’ words and labels can be so powerful that they can be deadly. Unna?’


The following essay was written by CW


and was


in response to the topic:



‘Gary has changed significantly by the end of the



Do you agree?


In Phillip Gwynne’s ‘Deadly Unna’ Gary Black has changed significantly by the end of the novel. He changes by becoming more aware of racism, becoming more courageous and he begins to tell the truth more often. 


By the end of the novel Gary becomes more aware of racism. The football grand final is where racism becomes more apparent to him. At the start of the book Gary used to laugh and tell racist jokes but once he starts to know some Aborigines he stops laughing and telling these kind of jokes. We can see that he has become more aware of racism by the way he reacts when the Best On Ground Award (B.O.G.) is announced for the grand final. Gary is angry about Mark Robertson winning it because Dumby Red played a better game. Gary believes that Mark only won it because he is white and Dumby isn’t. Gary also shows he is more aware of racism when he is prepared to do something about the graffiti. He begins to feel guilty about the graffiti and takes it upon himself to get rid of it. He even starts to have dreams about Slogsy writing ‘BOONGS PISS OFF’ all over the town. This makes Gary even more determined to do something about the graffiti and racism.


At the start of the book Gary doesn’t really have all that much courage but it gradually builds up enough for him to take some of his father’s things without his permission. Gary lacks courage when he comes up against the Thumper in the football grand final. He shows this by trying to side step the Thumper. A sign of Gary’s increasing courage is when he sneaks into his father’s room and takes his keys from the pocket of his father’s overalls. Gary then goes into the garage (which the kids aren’t allowed to enter without their father being in there) and takes his fathers good paint brushes and paint. This takes a lot of courage because Gary’s father has just been drinking and he is also very short-tempered. Gary also shows courage when he goes to Dumby’s funeral. This also takes courage as he was the about the only white person to attend the funeral and he doesn’t know how the Aborigines will react to him being there. No-one wants Gary to go especially his father who has already made plans with him but Gary believes it is the right thing to do even if no-one else does. These are just a few examples of the increasing courage Gary shows.


Gary changes from being a person who lies to someone who begins to tell the truth more often. At the start of the book he is lying regularly and we can see this when he tells his mates that he doesn’t like Dumby Red even though he actually does. He also lies when he is with Cathy and he denies knowing who Clarence is because she is Aboriginal and Cathy doesn’t really like Aboriginals all that much. Gary also lies to his mates when he denies liking Cathy when she first arrived. Gary starts to become more of a truth teller by the middle of the book. We can see this when his mother asks him where he was and he starts to think of a lie but instead he just tells her that he went to Dumby’s funeral. We can also tell that he was a frequent liar by the way his mother reacts to him telling the truth. Gary also tells his father the truth when they are in the garage and he tells him that he is taking his fathers good paint brushes and paint. Thus Gary demonstrates his courage to tell the truth.


By the end of ‘Deadly Unna?’ Gary’s maturity and experiences especially those interactions with the Aboriginals have changed him significantly. These changes have made him a better person allowing him to support the Aboriginals, despite peer group pressure, and to acknowledge his feelings towards them. While he may not have changed completely in these areas he has come a long way from the beginning.

The following essay was written by GS

and was


in response to the topic:



‘Gary has changed significantly by the end of the




Do you agree?


In this book written by Phillip Gwynne it touches on lots of things and in this essay I will write about how Gary has changed significantly by the end of the novel from being scared of what people think of him to not being scared.


Gary changes by going from being scared of what others think to not caring so much.  He wouldn’t have gone to Dumby’s funeral and would have gone with his father fishing. This is because he was worried that his father would think of him as a “gutless f ing wonder”. At the start he wouldn’t have gone because of what his friends thought of Dumby and maybe he wouldn’t have gone to the funeral but by the end he went to the funeral because he did not care what his friends thought of him and what his father would do to him .         


Gary becomes more aware of what’s going on around him by the end of the novel. He has also become more aware of racism and stereotypes.  He changes by living. At the start he would have left the racist graffiti on the shed and not cared about it at all.  By the end of the story he cared about racism. He is more aware when he goes out to the jetty with Dumby Red’s sister. He gets more aware as the days go by. By the end he had to get rid of the graffiti on the shed. He did know what he was getting in to and what his dad would do to him. But he did it and got what was coming to him for not listening to his dad but his brothers and  sisters backed him up and they got rid of it in the end .


 Gary is more honest and open. Gary changes .At the start Gary would have lied to his mum about going to Dumby’s funeral. We can see at the start he lies to his friends saying that he did not like Dumby but when Dumby saved him from the Mad Dog he said that he liked him and from then on he liked him. At the start he would have said to his mum that he was some where else than Dumby Red’s funeral but at the end he did not lie to his mum and said that he went to Dumby’s funeral. He did this even though he thought that he would not tell the truth straight up front and when he did his mum was shocked that he did tell the truth straight out to her. How ever he is not fully open like when did not tell the camper person that he was going to Dumby’s funeral I think that she would be ok with it and would  under stand why he was not going to the party and not dumped him when he did not go to the party.


 At the start of the novel he was worried about labels. When he was told that he was the new ruck he was sure  if he did not tackle the Thumper he would have been called a ‘gutless wonder’ and what ever he did that would have stayed with him what ever he did like the story. He come up with the shark story imagining that at his funeral they said that he was brave for saving the kids from a shark and then some one said “remember when he did not tackle the Thumper and lost us the grand final”. He thought that the label would stay with him what ever he does.


In the novel Gary gets more aware of stereotypes. In the bar Gary heard that when a ‘boong’ get a new home they rip all the doors off the wall and smash all the windows out and when they get a car they drive it and drive when the oil and water light comes on they drive. When it stops they burn it and the government gives them a new one and they do it again but when he went to Dumby’s funeral he finds out that it is not right and that what they said was not right and that he was drawn in to all the lies and what  can they do when they keep getting told again and again and then it gets stuck in our mind and you believe it.                                       


This novel is about racism not treating others how you what to be treated and not the same rights as you or me. It’s about Stereotypes and how what you are told you will believe it but when you get there it could be different. The power of a label and what it can do to a person and being scared of what they think of you and what you would do to get a good label and keep it. it’s about not lying when you do some thing like go to a funeral. I think that Gary has changed in a big way and I think that it is to the good and that he will keep on going for the good and that is how Gary has changed significantly by the end of the novel and I recommend it and that is what comes up in the book is good .






Comment on November 21st, 2008.

great work GS keep it up love the work

Comment on September 15th, 2010.

thanks that was really helpful keep up the great work

Comment on June 1st, 2013.

Thanks, so helpful!!

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