First appearing in The Bulletin in 1892, Henry Lawson's short story 'The Drovers Wife' is today regarded as a seminal work in the Australian literary tradition. Noted for it's depiction of the bush as harsh, potentially threatening and both isolated and isolating, the story opens with a simple enough premise: an aggressive--and presumably deadly--snake disrupts the working life of a bushwoman and her young children. Brave but cautious, the woman resolves to protect her children since her husband is, characteristically, away from home and of no help.
As time passes within the story, tension builds, and the snake's symbolic threat takes on layers of meaning as the sleepless heroine recalls previous challenges she faced while her husband was away. A series of flashbacks and recollections propel the story through the single night over which it takes place, and by the time the climax arrives--the confrontation with the snake--readers have learned much about the heroine's strengths and fears, most of the latter involving the loss of children and dark figures who encroach upon her small, vulnerable homestead. To be sure, this "darkness" is highly symbolic, and Lawson's use of imagery invokes Western notions of good and evil as well as gendered and racial stereotypes.
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