Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Lawson’s stories are almost all authentic illustrations of the several hardships and few small pleasures of proletarian domestic life—especially in the country. “The Drover’s Wife,” which appeared in his very first book, is of major significance because it so clearly and impressively states one of his pervasive themes, that the lives of people in the Outback are molded by the environment so that they, too, become hardened, desiccated, silent, and of necessity even predatory. However, in spite of all this, the occasional blossoms of the bush have their equivalents in the tender, soft, beautiful, yet temporary moments of life of the drovers and squatters.

The opening paragraphs of the story indicate Lawson’s approach to his theme; the lean, starved, drab minimalism of life in the bush is conveyed by the description of the drover’s house: “The two-roomed house is built of round timber, slabs, and stringy-bark, and floored with split slabs. A big bark kitchen standing at one end is larger than the house itself, veranda included.” The individuals who live there are also gaunt and hardy, for the children are described as “ragged, dried-up-looking,” and the mother, who has a “worn-out breast,” is described as a “gaunt, sun-browned bushwoman.”

Further, this identification of people and place is brought out in the second paragraph, where one finds one of Lawson’s best descriptions of the bush itself with all of its...

(The entire section is 510 words.)