The Drovers Wife
Collection of Short Stories
Language, Identity and Culture
In this module, you will examine how language is used to represent, reflect or shape identity and culture.
The culture in question here is rural Australians and their communities in the late 1800s.
The idea of there being a distinctive Australian bush identity came into existence in the late nineteenth century, when artists and writers such as Henry Lawson gave voice to the unique experiences of the people and communities who inhabited the rural frontier. His stories of the rugged, wild-eyed characters who lived there, immediately captured the attention of those who lived in the cities, as they were intrigued by the mystery and allure of these far away, unknown places.
Lawson’s purpose in exploring the lives of those who made their home on the bush frontier to be one of representing the authentic Australian identity and story.
It was the journey undertaken in September 1892 by Lawson to rural New South Wales that provided the inspiration for much of the stories in the collection set for study. He was confronted by the arid, drought-blasted rugged landscape, and the equally worn and wearied people who somehow called it home. He was drawn to the tragedy and poetry of their world: they toiled daily to survive (any real improvement in circumstance was beyond the imagination) and met the challenges presented by their environment with stoicism. And yet, among the hardship, he found moments of beauty and laughter. The collection of stories you will study provides glimpses into the unique and fascinating world of the Australian bush frontier in the 1890s.
Henry Lawson was not the only writer attempting to capture the experiences of the Australian bush in the 1890s. Banjo Paterson was considered Lawson's contemporary counterpart however he focused instead on triumph and bravery in the bush, creating romantic stereotypes of the space. Much of Lawson's work is trying to challenge the stereotypes that people in cities have of the bush.
The 1890's was also a time of great political change in Australia with high rates of union membership and the workers rights movement it produced, emerging suffragette movements as well as conventions on Australian Federation.