The goldfields were a setting very familiar to Lawson. The main characters Dave Regan, Jim Bently and Andy Page are good-natured. The escapades of Tommy, the black retriever dog establish the plot of the narrative. Tommy’s good nature and the challenge of a game with his friends build into a chase scene which has become synonymous with bush larrikinism and legend.
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The male characters hit on an ingenious plan to catch fish, by blowing them out of the water with a special cartridge made from explosives. The cartridge is retrieved by Tommy who chases the men that are running away from the inevitable explosion.
Tommy, however, is saved by a ‘ vicious, yellow mongrel cattle dog’ a dog despised by all. The cartridge is dropped by Tommy and claimed by the cattle dog when it explodes. The cattle dog dies but Tommy is saved with much irony since Tommy begun the situation.
‘ The Drover’s Wife’
The drover is forced to leave his wife and four children in a ‘ shanty on the main road’. The hardships forced on the drover’s wife and children who are left to cope with geographical isolation and the natural elements of the environment.
Time passing through the night is a structural device used by Lawson to allow the drover’s wife the opportunity to reflect on the loneliness of her life and the only way she can now achieve any of her dreams is by living through a magazine.
The dog and its loyalty to the family is significant. A loyalty so devout that the dog is prepared to give up its own life to save that of the family, and is expected that some day he will be bitten by a snake and die.
The drover’s wife maintains a sense of humour and is not lost in a world of self-pity. The anecdotes of her ability to cope with anything nature can hurl at her should be considered a measure of her inner strength.
The snake is finally killed and another threat to the well-being of her family is overcome.
‘ Joe Wilson’s Courtship’
‘ Joe Wilson’s Courtship’ is one of a series of stories written by Lawson about Joe Wilson, his life, his mates, his courtship, his marriage and his family.
Lawson uses Joe as his omniscient narrator providing a greater insight into the emotions, feeling and motivations of the character. We develop empathy and understanding for a young man and follow his hopes and dreams through life as if we are immersed in the actions ourselves.
The story tells the relationship between Joe and the beautiful Mary. Joe’s mates take an active role in moving the relationship along and a series of convenient random happenings evolve.
The story tells of a young man maturing and trying to find his place in the world and the woman who will share that place. He fights for Mary’s honour after a Sydney Jackaroo insults her.
In keeping with the notion of mateship and looking out for your mates Joe’s mate Jack organises a meeting between Joe and Mary where he can propose. The proposal is gauche and uncultured but in keeping with his life’s experiences.
Joe formally asks for Mary’s hand in marriage from her guardian Mr Black who gives his consent. Character reflection is a common structural device used by Lawson to allow his characters more voice than the story itself provides. Black falls into reverie by remembering his own courtship of Mrs Black.
‘ In a Dry Season’
Snapshots or images as seen through the window of a train allow Lawson to take his reader’s on this journey with him. He sees the bush through his own eyes and writes about the things that appeal to him. The ‘ bush liar’ is the city-dweller trying to impress the bushman.
The story sketches the features and characters of the land that Lawson knew well. The ‘ taking-down’ of the bush liar shows the romantic notions of the bush to be false and misleading and heightens the integrity and strength of Lawson’s bushmen. An acknowledgement of the creation of the bush myths and legends.
The narrator tells the story of sameness about the bush and the towns with their Railway Hotels. He explores change through the characters he sees along the way and uses their dress as a social commentary on the people he sees on the journey.
The journey ends at Bourke, the end of the railway line. Lawson’s personal belief that the progress of change as the result of the railway signalled the end of the life as his characters knew it is symbolised by the journey.