Like many stories by Henry Lawson (and like those of Anton Chekhov and Katherine Mansfield), “The Drover’s Wife” has remarkably little action: The plot, such as it is, suggests the absence of action that characterizes life in the Outback (the dry, sparsely settled, and inhospitable areas distant from the few major urban settlements of Australia) during the long intervals between recurrent natural disasters, such as floods, bushfires, and droughts. This indicates a technical aspect that Lawson mastered in his short stories: the construction of a coherent fiction on the flimsiest of plots. One of his aims was always to use a slight plot.
In its simplest form, the plot is limited to the discovery of a five-foot black snake in the woodheap, watching it go under the house, and waiting through the night for its reemergence so that it can be killed. The variety and violence of life in the Outback are indicated by the omniscient narrator’s allusions to memorable episodes that have punctuated the drover’s wife’s life, which is frequently marked by her solitude from adult companionship. (She has not heard from her husband for six months as the story begins.)
She has two boys and two girls (“mere babies”) and a dog, Alligator, for company; she has two cows, a horse, and a few sheep as possessions; her husband is often away driving sheep and cattle, and has been away for periods of up to eighteen months. During one of his absences she...
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With her children left under her care, she is fiercely protective of them. The moment that thesnake appeared at their home and posed a threat to her family, she took the children to safety andgrabbed a stick as a form of defence against the snake.She worried over her children, and was willing to sacrifice much of herself to ensure theirsafety. While her children slept soundly, oblivious to the danger that still lurked with them in thehouse, she sat by their makeshift bed on the kitchen table together with Alligator, a green sapling athand, ready to strike the second the snake reappeared. She had her sewing basket and a copy of
to not only pass the time, but to keep herself alert and awake
all night if necessary. She was prepared to do whatever needed to eliminate the source of danger to her youngfamily.Her oldest, eleven-year-old Tommy, offers to rid the snake for her. Fearing for his safety aswell, she refuses him. His innocent child-like bravery though, comforts her somewhat. When theopportunity finally presented itself, she bludgeons the snake to death, crushing its head and back. Ibelieve that in that moment, she was also expressing her frustrations and bitterness and loneliness;channelling all her pent up emotions into killing the thing that could hurt her family.Her courage and fierce protectiveness over her family, and her strong resolve is certainlysom
ething to be deeply admired. Her character is the epitome of a „strong woman‟ –
a woman whocan take care of herself and her family even without the head of the house. She is independent andresponsible, brave and courageous
a superwoman. However, what really makes her characterbelievable, and relatable, is that one reaction mentioned in the text after the killing of the snake
shetears up as she watches the mangled carcass of the snake burn in the fire.I believe that her reaction showed her real emotions. Underneath her strong bravado andfierce protectiveness, was a person who was lonely and fearful. I understand her loneliness of havingto take care of a family all by herself. I can also imagine the sort of fears she possesses
fear of losingher children, fear of being helpless to protect her family, fear of being alone. The irony is that herrevealing her true emotions in the story did not portray a weakness, but rather further convinced me of her inner strength. For true courage and strength is only when you stand firm and keep going
your fears.The ending of
The Drover’s Wife
is really heart-warming. Tommy, her son, is certainly a
bright and insightful child. After seeing his mother‟s tears, he was not alarmed or even ashamed of her
t of weakness. Instead, he told her that he would “never go droving.” Apparently, that was
exactly what she needed to hear
that at least someone, albeit a little boy, would not abandon her, orleave her.
The Drover’s Wife
for me also raises some other questions relating to life in the Outback. Oneof them is the role of the drover, the father, the head of the family. Is it right to leave the welfare of the children to the sole responsibility of your partner? Should you be leaving your family to their owndevices in a harsh and dangerous environment such as the Australian bush? Would you takeresponsibility should anything untoward happen to your loved ones? Would you regret then?This may be a typical lifestyle in the Outback, but not one that should be encouraged. As afather, although providing for your family
your responsibility, I wonder if that is to be moreimportant than staying with and protecting your family. What is the point of being a father if you donot raise your children, or watch them grow? What kind of parent would you be if you abandonedyour children for long time periods only to return and realize that they have grown up and apart fromyou? What kind of spouse will you be, if you claim to care and love them and then leave them to carefor your children alone? All you shall be to your family then, is nothing more than an occasionalvisitor, a stranger.The story has thus brought awareness to the kind of life specifically in the Australian bush,through the eyes of a woman and young mother. The struggles that a bushwoman has to face without