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Ned Kelly as Vigilante and Tragic Hero

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Allow me to challenge your perspective of the once defined scoundrel, Ned Kelly. However, before we begin let’s define a cultural icon. A cultural icon is the embodiment of a particular idea, belief or way of living which one deems rememberable. Ned Kelly is one of the most controversially well-known folk heroes within today’s society. For decades he has had an abundance of controversial representations throughout all genres and fields ranging from journalism to songwriters. He is often considered the last bushranger and is frequently referred to as a contributing factor to the larrikinism of Australia’s demeanour. So why are we still talking about him? Many perceive Ned as a key factor within the representation of the ordinary class against the odds of authority. Additionally, he also idealises the bush which depicts a ‘true Australian’ idealistic views, appealing to the majority of Australians. On the whole, the overall consensus of the representations express that he is a vigilante for the people and as his life continues, he ends up becoming a tragic hero. Furthermore, after a concise analysis of the 2003 film ‘Ned Kelly’ directed by Gregor Jordan and the poem ‘Bushrangers’ by Edward Harrington, these allegations will become concrete.

To begin, the social viewpoint of Ned Kelly is clearly positively portrayed through the relationships in which he and the Kelly Gang have formed displaying the humane side of Ned. Within the opening scene, Ned Kelly is rewarded with a green sash after saving a young boy from drowning. Soft, atmospheric music is playing, putting the audience in a dream-like trans, in conjunction with Ned’s voiceover speaking highly of his father, suggesting innocence and purity in relation to Ned’s actions. Moreover, this additionally shows genuine connection which inevitably sways the people to represent Ned as a brave, hero whom in which values his family. However, this is not the only evidence that suggests Ned Kelly’s portrayal as an infamous vigilante fighting for justice. As found within ‘Bushrangers’ by Edward Harrington, stanza 5: “Whatever their faults, whatever their crimes; their deeds lend remain to those faraway times”. Distinctively concretes the relationship with Ned Kelly being depicted as positive showing that Ned has a humane side allowing the audience to make genuine connection, causing a positive representation.

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Secondly, of equal importance, the positive vigilante portrayal is clearly evident through the remembrance of the Kelly Gang in correlation with Ned’s depiction as a tragic hero. “Through years bring oblivion, time brings a change, the ghosts of the Kelly’s still ride in the range”. Furthermore, this statement exclaims that no matter how much time passes, the reminisce of the Kelly Gang and their influence will still roam the towns of Australia throughout history. In conjunction, the ending scene also corroborates with the positive perspectives of the Bushrangers. With the use of wide shots displaying the dark clouds, lightning and enclosed space in which Ned is held it creates the overall tone that Ned’s death is a solemn moment in which he will be missed immensely. As heard through his voiceover talking about the journey, he has been on in collaboration with the slow yet dramatic music. Moreover, by using these effects it conveys the dark and gloomy moods throughout Ned’s passing in comparison to the beginning scene in which a bright and happy sky was shown. Thus, it is unmistakably apparent that Ned Kelly has a positive representation in association with the Kelly Gang defined by their distant remembrance and influence on the audience.

Continuing on, Ned Kelly is undoubtedly depicted positively as displayed through the portrayal of him becoming a tragic hero throughout his actions whilst the raiding of the bank. “They opened the safe and they looted the bank; they laughed and were merry, they ate and they drank”. Displaying the light-hearted and fun side of Ned and the Kelly Gang adding to their likeableness and more emotional attachment towards them before their inevitable downfall. The regular rhythm and rhyme (AABBCC) illustrates the mood of a vibrant, heroic and light-hearted family-man. Which in turn rises tension, yet again drilling in the idea of Ned Kelly being represented as a vigilante whom creates the idealistic Australian. To further this analysis, the movie ‘Ned Kelly’ perfectly depicts the fun-loving nature in which the Kelly Gang raided the bank. Overall the Kelly Gang had a calm atmosphere around the young kids additionally, they had no intention to hurt anyone. Furthering the heroic and larrikinism perspective of all ‘typical’ Australians. In addition, Ned also burns mortgages in order to allow the poor to escape their never-ending debt. Another act of heroism allowing him to be seen as a vigilante.

In summary, it can be thought that the representation of Ned Kelly as depicted throughout the film ‘Ned Kelly’ and ‘The Bushrangers’ is overpoweringly positive. This is irrefutable, since the weight of the evidence as previously suggested displays Ned Kelly as a vigilante, tragic hero and has ideal ‘Australian’ views. Furthermore, with this portrayal Ned Kelly’s representation cannot be argued otherwise.

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Ned Kelly as Vigilante and Tragic Hero. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from
“Ned Kelly as Vigilante and Tragic Hero.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
Ned Kelly as Vigilante and Tragic Hero. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Mar. 2024].
Ned Kelly as Vigilante and Tragic Hero [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2024 Mar 2]. Available from:
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