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An Essay on Henry Lawson's "The Drover's Wife"

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An Essay on Henry Lawson's "The Drover's Wife" by Pia Andersen, 3D 1998/99 e-mail: perander@c2i.net The short-story "The Drover's Wife" is written by Henry Lawson, Australia's most famous short-story writer and poet. "The Drover's Wife" is probably Lawson's best-known work, and was first published in the collection entitled "While the Billy Boils" in 1892. Lawson was deeply interested in the effects of the harsh Australian outback on people's lives, having himself spent 18 months in the bush. This was expressed in a number of so-called "bush ballads" and stories, "The Drover's Wife" being one of them. This short-story has the Australian bush or outback as its setting. This is revealed in the two first paragraphs, where the author makes a short and precise description of the little house and the surrounding landscape. To tell the time of the story is, however, more difficult. The text gives us only a few clues to when it might have happened. The most obvious one is, "The drought of 18 - ruined him". ...read more.


In my opinion Lawson uses the incident with the snake to uncover the bush woman's struggles against the outback. The point of view used in "The Drover's Wife" is the Third person Limited voice. Lawson has told the story form the bush woman's perspective. That allows us to see into her thoughts and feelings. Since the woman is the main character as well, we are given a complete and realistic portrait of a woman's life in the bush. Throughout the short story we get a very good characterisation of the woman, mainly via retrospective thoughts. We learn that she is a gaunt and sun browned woman, and that her life in the bush started when she married a squatter at the age of 18. As a girl-wife she had hated the lonely life in the outback, but as time passed by, she grew used to it. When the drought forced her husband to go droving, she had been left alone with the children and the problems a life in the bush would bring. ...read more.


Once she sat down in order to "have a good cry," she saw the cat rubbing itself against her dress, "crying too". That gave her a good laugh. The harsh life in the outback has made her tough and very strong. It gives her few pleasures and has fulfilled none of her day-dreams. But nevertheless, the bush woman seems quite content with her lot. It seems to me that Henry Lawson did not have a very deep and underlying intention when writing "The Drover's Wife. I think he only wants to tell us how small and defenceless people, and especially women, become in their encounter with the hardship of the Australian outback. Nonetheless, to write a bush story from a woman's perspective was quite unusual for Australian writing of the period. Lawson also claimed that the central character in "The Drover's Wife" was modelled on his aunt. This makes me think that he maybe wanted to start a discussion on the bush women's cruel situation. However, I do not support this idea. I think Henry Lawson simply wanted to write a wonderful story, portraying the hardship of life in the Australian outback from a woman's point of view. ...read more.

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