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.
Steelman praises Smith, telling him he is nearly as good to talk to as an intelligent sheepdog, then reveals much of his life story in the form of counsel about life.
Joe is unhappy when Jack Mitchell brings an unlikeable shearer known as 'the Lachlan' to their camp. The Lachlan stays with them for the day, then moves on. That night Mitchell tells Joe the tragic tale of Jack Drew, a journalist and sometime gold prospector, and Ruth Wilson, a girl with whom Mitchell was also in love.
'Ratty Howlett' has lived alone on his selection for fifteen years. His only company is the occasional traveller he waylays on the road past his property and persuades to stop for a yarn. When the narrator is invited back to Ratty's hut for a meal he is surprised to find it clean and tidy. Ratty tells him his wife has gone out for the day and it is not until five years later that the narrator learns the truth.