Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Clearly, a story that has slight action, such as waiting for a snake to reappear, must have some compensatory elements (especially in the absence of any direct characterization) to account for its popularity and fame. In part these are stylistic, in part technical. First, Lawson makes Tommy, the drover’s young son, a representative of his father, a foil for the drover’s wife. Though still a child, he sees the emptiness of his mother’s life and the hollowness of the family existence, so that the story ends when he says, “Mother, I won’t never go drovin’; blarst me if I do!” and she hugs and kisses him “while the sickly daylight breaks over the bush.”

Even the use of “Mother” is significant. Instead of the more usual “Mum” or “Ma” in country children’s speech, there is the more polite, tender “Mother,” which suggests a child’s desire to be separated from the harshness of the bush. (His “normal” language is revealed in the double negative and “blarst.”) This epiphany occurs, significantly, at dawn. The daylight, though, is “sickly,” with all that this connotes.

Alligator, the dog, is developed as a character in the story. (His name is another irony in a waterless environment.) When the snake is first encountered by Tommy, Alligator “takes small notice” of Tommy’s stick and “proceeds to undermine the building.” He is an equal, a colleague, and “they cannot afford to lose him.” He...

(The entire section is 425 words.)