Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson uses a variety of language techniques, colourful characters and strong personal voices in his stories ‘the drovers wife’ and ‘in a dry season’ to give off a negative image of the bush life and the gender inequities of the time. Similarly, Banjo Patterson writes about the bush in his poem ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. However, unlike Lawson, Patterson focuses on portraying a positive view of the bush whilst at the same time suggesting a negative view of the city life. Frederick McCubbin also focuses on the positive aspects of the bush through his painting ‘down on his luck’.

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His painting portrays the beauty of the bush but at the same time displays the negative views of the loneliness it brings. The drover’s wife is written in third person, from the point of view of an omniscient narrator. Lawson’s negativity towards the bush begins immediately in this story, when he uses diction to describe the bushland surrounding the house as “stunted, rotten native apple trees. No undergrowth. Nothing to relieve the eye save the darker green of a few sheoaks which are sighing above the narrow waterless creek’.

Throughout these sentences Lawson stress many negative words such as stunted, rotten, no, and nothing. When describing the green sheoaks he uses the word ‘sighing’. This gives off the interpretation that even the trees do not wish to be there in the dull boring bush landscape. He later describes the children as ‘four ragged dried up looking children’. This use of descriptive adverbs gives us a negative visual representation of the children. To make this negative description complete, he also describes them as ‘urchins’. Although this word is archaic today, to his 19th Century audience it conveyed strong negative connotations. She put on a pair of her husband’s trousers and beat out the flames with a green bough, til drops of sooty perspiration stood out on her forehead and ran in streaks down her blackened arms’. A negative image is also portrayed through Lawson’s expression of the gender inequities at the time. These inequities are expressed throughout the number of flashback in the story, alternating from past and present, reflecting two different time frames. These flashbacks are told of a drovers wife and mother of four who Lawson describes as a ‘girl wife’ implying that she is only a young girl who has been thrown into grown up life early.

Lawson speaks of how she is left alone with the children for extended periods of time ‘once being left home for 18 months before her husband returned’. Lawson speaks of this in order to gain sympathy for the woman from the audience. The first flashback uses powerful descriptive vocabulary such as ‘long, old and sooty’ to give a distinctively visual image of the woman beating out a fire. ‘She put on a pair of her husband’s trousers and beat out the fire’. Through this, Lawson aims to visually describe the woman wearing her husbands trousers, dressed like a man, beating out a fire which is a mans job.

This represents how tough the life of a woman was in the 19th century as compared to a man, as Lawson says of the womans husband ‘sometimes he may forget he is married’, implying that he has his way with other women while out droving for months. ‘Draw a wire fence and a few ragged gums, and add some scattered sheep running away from the train. Then you’ll have the bush all along the New South Wales Western line from Bathurst on’. This is the opening line of Lawson’s ‘in a dry season’. Lawson uses direct, conversational language like ‘draw’, to give the reader an almost photographic image of the bushes ‘ragged gums’.

Lawson uses literal language throughout the story to paint a composite of simplistic images. Lawson says that ‘death is about the only cheerful thing in the bush’. This sentence uses juxtaposes death as a good thing compared to the lacklustre, suicidal bush. Lawson says that ‘the least horrible spot in the bush is where the bush isn’t’. He uses negative diction, instead of describing it as the best spot in the bush he describes it as the ‘least horrible’, implying that there is nothing good about the bush, just some things less horrible than others.

Banjo Patterson’s diction plays a large role in expressing the positivity of the bush life as compared to the negativity of the city life in ‘Clancy of the overflow’. Patterson uses sentences such as ‘vision splendid, sunlit plains and everlasting stars’ to describe the bush, opposed to ‘dingy, little, dirty and foulness’ to describe the city. Lawson juxtaposes these two lifestyles, aiming to paint a comparative picture in out head.

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