40 pages 1 hour read

Colleen McCullough

The Thorn Birds

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1977

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Character Analysis

Meggie Cleary

When the novel opens, Meggie is four years old, and the novel follows her life as she lives into her sixties. For the first 20 years of her life, she is credited primarily as being beautiful and innocent; male characters often compare her to a doll, and her mother dresses her as one, curling her hair before each school day. Meggie becomes a mother figure early on in the novel, looking after her younger brothers faithfully and imagining herself as a mother when she is still only a child. When she meets Luke O’Neill, whom she eventually marries, he is gratified sexually by suckling at her breast like a baby.


Meggie’s independent nature stems from her early childhood, when she often had to find her way. Surrounded by brothers and ignored by her mother until later in life, Meggie receives little formal education. She learns about sex only after she has been married to Luke O’Neill. At times, her independent streak manifests in manipulation; she tricks her husband into impregnating her, and she keeps Dane’s true identity a secret from Ralph, revealing the truth only when she needs Ralph’s help. Meggie’s adult imperfections clash with the descriptions of her excessive purity, revealing her as a character capable of remarkable transformation and growth.

Related Titles

By Colleen McCullough