In Henry Lawson's story "The Drover's Wife," what does the wooden shack in which the drover's wife lives with her four children look like?

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kjtracy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Drover's Wife" is set in the desolate Australian Outback, a dry and Spartan area that seldom sees activity or visitors. The Outback is considered largely inhospitable to Australians due to the harsh climate and lack of amenities. The area is also highly prone to drought, flooding and fires, which makes it an undesirable location in which to live. It is in this inhospitable landscape that the drover's wife and her husband have chosen to build their home, an unimpressive shack in the middle of nowhere. The shack is described as being 19 miles away from any sign of civilization and located on the main road. Wild animals such as snakes and poisonous insects abound, and the characters finding a large snake in their wood pile is the main event that takes place within the short story. The drover's wife must contend with the isolation that comes with not hearing from her husband in six months. Life in the rugged shack is difficult and lonely, and the shack itself serves as a character throughout the story.

As the story progresses, the wooden shack is described as drab and lackluster. There are minimalist structures used to house the cattle, and the drover's wife has dug trenches around the shack to prevent it from flooding. Despite its drab appearance, the shack provides the family with what little protection they can expect against the elements and other natural threats in the bush. Wanderers and dangerous animals alike make occasional appearances, and the shack keeps the drover's wife and her children shielded from them. There is also a porch with wood stored underneath it, and when a snake disappears underneath the porch, the family must wait to flush it out at dawn so they can kill it. In this sense, the shack is both a problem (due to its poor construction and remote location) and a source of protection.  

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The wooden shack of the family of the drover is a two-room building, a makeshift construction apparently erected from whatever lumber could be gleaned: "stringy-bark, with split slabs" of wood for flooring in the main room. The kitchen has only a dirt floor. 

Clearly indicative of an impoverished family, this shack, which houses a family of six, is inadequate. When a five-foot black snake slithers under the house into the main living area, the drover's wife is forced to bring her small children out to the kitchen, where parts of this room are unprotected from the wind because of the shabby slab wall through which drafts can come. She makes the children get up onto a large, crudely constructed kitchen table where she has made a bed with the pillows and covers she has quickly snatched from inside. With nowhere for her to lie, the mother sits in a chair during the night.

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The Drover's Wife

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