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‘Tom Appleby Convict Boy’ by Jackie French

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Immersed in the drama, the true story, ‘Tom Appleby Convict Boy’ written by Jackie French, emotionally touches readers hearts reliving the events experienced by a young boy, Tom Appleby, during the 18th Century. The book bases around how social position disadvantaged Tom greatly and ultimately moulded him a new life, his life. It educates readers on historical events and the conventional moral behaviour expected during the 18th century. Tom models how introducing a new attitude of courage and bravery enabled him to conquer his fears and overcome the difficult obstacles in his life. Aside from the underlying laws and expected behaviour to adhere by during the 18th century, morals and/or ethics are also conveyed to us through Tom’s behaviour and thoughts.

For example, although stealing is wrong conduct, Tom stole in an upright and honourable way to help a friend escape his laborious life. “One day Jem and I will have hot potatoes every night, and morning too. We’ll see the sunlight every day and never see the night at all, except to sleep. A life of sun and flowers…” pg. 52, Chapter 10. How the story is written impacts greatly on how the reader receives these messages of morals and ethics. ‘Tom Appleby Convict Boy’ is written subjectively from a third person point of view. Subjectivity allows the reader to become one of the characters and compare that character’s perspective with his or her own. Through French’s use of textual structures, language features and choice of narrative view point; she can better manage how the readers receive moral and/or ethical messages.

The biography is written by French however from the perspective of Tom Appleby. Although the story is from the perspective of Tom Appleby, French’s perspective is what ultimately structures the story. For more clarity, the author has the power to manipulate how readers will receive and emotionally respond to the story, based on her perspective of Tom’s life she can manage whether or not the reader perceives Tom in a negative or positive light also. As though the author has a lot of subject over how the readers receive the story of Tom’s life, each individual reader will still experience and respond to the story differently. From the perspective of an adolescent reader, with the influence of the authors ability to connect to readers through textual structures, language features and choice of narrative view point, the story is a blood pumping and fantastic novel.

Being educational, modelling of right and wrong conduct and beautifully and emotionally touching, the book is an overall great story for young readers. The strict perspective of the correct moral behaviour and your social position during the 18th century impacted your future and rights of freedom greatly. At a tender age, Tom Appleby’s freedom, childhood and innocence was snatched away from him at the event of his fathers death. Before being convicted of stealing, Tom was sold into the laborious industry of child chimney sweeps. Frequently being referred to as “it”, “him” or/and “them”, this quote reveals some of the brutality behind working in the sweeps industry, “The black-and-white man assessed Tom as if he were a horse he was thinking of buying. ‘If you get them too young you risk them dying on you’, said the red-faced man persuasively.

‘You lose all the effort you made in training them.’” Pg. 16-17, Chapter 4. This quote outlines the lack of empathy the man has towards Tom’s health and well-being. Tom was beginning to be treated more like an object then a young creative child; being at the hands of his given social position of an ‘Orphan’. Tom’s social position disadvantaged him greatly, from an orphan to a convict; even he referred to himself, sometimes indirectly, as “convict scum”. Jackie French touches us as she explicitly narrates the importance and value of correct social and moral positions/behaviour, and how Tom, forced to behave morally ‘wrong’ for survival, become a convict because of this. Spawning from Tom’s Father’s death, Tom decided to take up new values, beliefs and demanded new characteristics among him. Tom’s new character was representative of courage and bravery.

Mentally, Tom welcomed the ‘Courage Cloak’ into his life which connoted ‘warmth, visuals of the colour red and safety’- pg. 10, Chapter 3. These new attitudes are embedded and reflected in Tom’s character and how he handles obstacles in his life. Revisiting the power of subjectivity, French having written the story from this point of view enables readers to think from the perspective of Tom and reflect this perspective in the their lives; ultimately promoting courage and bravery among young teens. A teenage audience can benefit from the lessons and attitudes reflected in ‘Tom Appleby Convict boy’.

The book educates young readers about social positions, morals and ethical behaviour expected during the 18th century, also allusively educates readers on important historical events in time. Through language features and narrative point of view, French promotes the attitudes of courage and bravery and allows young readers to self-reflect on their attitudes, their problems or obstacles and appreciate the quality of their life in comparison to Tom’s. Tom Appleby convict boy is a great novel that opens the eyes of young readers in many ways, overall, highly recommended.

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