Please explain the tone, mood, and imagery in Henry Lawson's piece.

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Henry Lawson's short story, "The Drover's Wife," represents the ongoing relentlessness of its titular character's existence with its present-tense narrative. The key theme of the story is that of nature's challenges and how the drover's wife deals with these; in declining to name his main character, Lawson is emphasizing that her experience is common to many of her era in her situation. The fact that Alligator, the faithful dog, is named, while the drover himself is not, reinforces the story's suggestion that the dog is the most dependable person in the woman's life, and her constant companion and support.

The mood of the story is relatively upbeat, despite the use of enumeratio to emphasize the sheer number of challenges the woman must face. The woman is "anxious" about her husband at this time but mostly "contented." Lawson's tone is conversational, recounting the interchanges between the woman and her children in natural language: "There, I told you you'd teach Jacky to swear." This underlines the fact that this day is only one among many others in the woman's life and that defending her children alone against snakes is normal for her, in the same way that the comment, "she rode nineteen miles for assistance carrying [her] dead child" can be offered without further elaboration. Even things which seem tragic are juxtaposed easily by the writer against the mundane; the casual tone emphasizes that the woman's life is so demanding she has become inured to such tragedies and even expects them.

The imagery in the story mostly serves to set the scene, helping the reader to picture the "two-roomed house" and, again, the relentlessness of the bush situation, "bush all round—bush with no horizon." There are "no ranges," there is "no undergrowth, and there is "nothing to relieve the eye." The repetition here conveys the sheer isolation in which the woman and her children live: "nineteen miles to the nearest sign of civilization." The woman herself is "sun-browned" and "gaunt," a product of the landscape. The figurative language in the piece is minimal, and when it does appear, the similes are quotidian ones of the sort the woman herself might use to describe her surroundings: "the cracks between the slabs gleam like polished silver." Meanwhile, Alligator, the dog, bears the marks of his many battles on his face and worn coat. He and the woman together look exactly like what they are: the two lone defenders of the woman's children, standing defiant against challenge after challenge.

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The Drover's Wife

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