Drover’s Wife Band 5 2009

Distinctively Visual Essay

#Are Visuals only distinctive in that they appeal to a specific audience or are they distinctive because they portray a universal concept?

Visuals are distinctive, not because it only appeals to a specific audience but because they convey a universal concept and this is clearly shown in Henry Lawson’s “Drover’s Wife” and “The Loaded Dog”. These two short stories convey the universal principle of persistence, hardship, and mateship through survival in an unforgiving and harsh environment.

The Drover’s wife clearly portrays the unique landscape of the outback through the hardships the drover’s wife’s persistent survival. The vision of the Drover’s wife is one of a protective mother, and a hardened battler against the disasters of the Australian bush. The use of alliteration “no undergrowth, nothing to relieve the eye…nineteen miles to the nearest…civilisation” emphasises how isolated the drover’s wife and that she is alienated from the rest of the world. The personification “Big black yellow eyed dog of all breeds” conveys that only rough, and masculine characteristics can thrive within the outback of the Australian bush. Furthermore the “Young Lady’s Journal…for her surrounding’s not favourable of the development of the womanly side of nature” conveys the journal as a symbol of the drover’s wife leaving her womanhood in the past in order to brave the rough and terrible conditions of the bush. The hardships faced by the people in the bush can be seen in the juxtaposition, “Thunder rolls and rain comes in torrent/the drought of eighteen ruins him” which illustrates the unpredictability of the outback lifestyle. Finally the extended imagery that portrays the wife and her children as “ragged dried up looking children…gaunt sun brown woman” conveys the stoic vision of both the land and its inhabitants as worn and exhausted.

In addition the powerful setting of the outback itself is seen to create the image of the settlers. The endless ‘travel’ motif in “That monotony that makes a man longing to break away, travel as far as a train go, sail as far as ships can sail” shows that the land is larger than life and that the inhabitants are helpless within it. The personification of Alligator “He hates snakes and killed many, but he will be bitten some day and die; most snake-dogs end that way” again reflects the inevitability of death and failure in such a landscape. The anecdotal humour of “They are cunning but a woman’s cunning is greater” further emphasises the shrewd mentality that bushman need in order to live a life in outback. “Shakes the snake as though he felt the original curse with mankind” is a biblical reference for the dog creating a sense of mateship for the hound as well as putting it in the same family as its handler. Alligator like the retriever in “The Loaded Dog” personifies the harsh reality of the bush; further emphasised in the desolate tone of the death of the bush woman’s child. “She rode nineteen miles for assistance… carrying the dead child…” In this way, “the Drover’s Wife” clearly presents that visuals are distinctive as they have a universal concept through the hardships faced in the outback and persistence.

The Loaded Dog clearly conveys that distinctively visual elements of outback life through black humour and the concept of Mateship. The careless, almost frivolous lifestyle of the Australian Larrikin throughout the entire story portrays the strong bond that Andy, Dave and Jim have with each other and their dog Tommy. The personification “Foolish four-footed mate…with an idiotic slobbering grin of appreciation of his own silliness” conveys that the dog is not treated as a dog but as another member of their circle of mates. Their hyperbolic “dynamite fishing” shows the larrikins’ uncultured way of handling a problem which they are faced with creating both humour and showcasing the Outback appreciation for the ridiculous. The cartridge of dynamite used for fishing foreshadows the disastrous results for it is absurd. “To give the fish some time to get over their scare and come hosing around again” is ironic because the audience know that the cartridge is going to fail either way but it also portrays the innocence and inventive nature of the bush folk. The repetition of ‘suppose’ in “Gold quartz…Suppose to exist…coal reef…suppose to exist” emphasises that the optimistic, happy go lucky attitude of the outback folk. s

Furthermore the antics of the characters create a vision of what the outback life is like. The iconic jovial nature of the Australians are shown in the sibilance “The mates should rise and begin to sniff suspiciously in the sickly smothering atmosphere of the summer sunrise” conveying that there is a strong connection between the land and the personality of the inhabitants. It also emphasises that the larrikins are carefree and take the problems of life as they come. The use of dramatic irony “Dave looked over his shoulder and bolted-Jim looked behind Dave and bolted-Andy stood still” is humorous as they each react to the threat of a “friend” with a cartridge in its mouth symbolising death at their heels. Here Tommy is also a metaphor for the unpredictable chance of death and injury that is prevalent the bush. Furthermore, the use of simile “Andy is as handy as the average sailor with needles, twine, canvas and rope” also shows that the larrikins are very practical, each a jack-of-all-trades. The conclusion “bushmen…trying to laugh without shrieking” was ironic because it is almost karmic that the bully robbing the underdog would be punished for his sins. The appreciation of this irony displays the Aussies as happy-go-lucky jokers; conveying the unique vision of Australians as distinctive and individualistic with a fine appreciation for life.

In this way, Henry Lawson’s “Drover’s Wife” and “The Loaded Dog” both clearly shows that Visuals are distinctive not because it appeal to a specific audience but because it shapes a distinctive and individual vision of Australians. Aspects such as hardships, persistence, mateship and black humour all contribute to give the audience a very clear image about the outback in Australia.





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