(Just a note: Blogger is not allowing me to update the sidebar).
The presence of a convict town spreads corruption everywhere in one form or another, sometimes violent, sometimes not; Charlie is "a bright, glowing, bouncing boy of six years"; adult prisoners are so natural to him that he assumes he's going to be one when he grows up, as if convict is a profession.
When taken by his father to see some public work, which was just receiving its finishing touches from convict labour, he admired in silence for a long while, and then broke out:
'When I'm a prisoner, won't I build a beauty!'
Charlie is a merging agent: he is amoral, he never sees the corruption (I mean that he does not witness the dichotomy that his author sees, and on which she dwells; he has a Rabelaisian acceptance, he is free of her devils), he is pragmatic: the imprisoned people, the alcoholic people, the mad people, they are his surroundings, and once he works out that the "howl" from the "drefful wild beasts" is only a convict lunatic then he's fine:
But when Miss D'Urban told her that, wild beast or not, they had been alarmed by the most doleful wail that ever mortal heard, the wife began to wonder whence the noise could have proceeded, and wondered on until her eldest boy burst into a laugh.
'Oh! 'twas nothing, mother; 'twas only from the Cranky Yard.'
Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. His acceptance is the cure that Leakey sees but does not want. She would rather be sick than cured like him. (There is a story that is not being spoken here, about a healthy boy whose adults are trying to make him moral, therefore ill.)
But she never changes him, which is interesting in itself: she doesn't reform him by bringing him over to her own point of view. He was not invented to be reformed then, he is not like Maida Gwynnham, who was invented for a purpose (to carry the load of the book, in other words to suffer) or like the man who seduced her (who was invented so that he could seduce her). Charlie was invented to be himself, because that is how he remains.
Why does Maida Gwynnham need to suffer? Leakey was not writing The Broad Arrow to turn people against transportation. Transportation was over before she began. Tasmania received its last convict in 1851. She started the book in 1858 and published in 1859. If she is not trying to end transportation or to titillate people with prison stories then what is she doing? Is it a warning to seducers? (The seducer suffers at the end. It is a warning to seducers.) Why doesn't the story take place in England, where she spent most of her life? Why does she see life in this torn-apart or separated state? She was evangelical and her family was evangelical: is that part of an answer? She was a migrant for a few years: the place she visited is the place she describes in detail, her homeland is a caricature.
The wrong is nebulous: it is corruption in toto, it is life, which is a mixed substance. Tasmania in this book is the place where life is strongest because it is the place where it is most mixed. The convicts exist casually next to the upper classes. Leakey herself came to the colony to replace the convict who was nursemaiding her sister's children. She chases the riven around but she can't corner it. The dichotomous crack exists intimately in the senses:
Lessons of morality and piety, listened to with reverence on the mother's lap or father's knee, were contradicted by the practices of convict life, so that Charlie was puzzled to know which was the correct path -- that commended to him by precept, or that chosen by the multitude. In fact, he had to decide between seeing and hearing.