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Exploring Personal Identity in Henry Lawson's Short Stories ‘Our Pipes’ and ‘The Drover’s Wife’

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The environment of an individual’s identity shapes the community’s identity due to isolation. When coming together everyone has so much to express and share as everyone has missed out on so much due to being Australian bush men or women. ‘Our Pipes’ and ‘The Drover’s Wife’ explore the culture, identity, and language on both an individual and community aspect. The individual identity explored by Lawson through both texts is the characters and in which they affirm, ignore, challenge, reveal or disrupt the Australian culture. The community aspect Lawson explores is the theme of a white Australian male living in the bush.

‘Our Pipes’ and ‘The Drover’s Wife’ by Henry Lawson show an insight of an individual identity of femininity and women. Throughout ‘Our Pipes’ the mother was put in a positional representation as she is the first female character in the text and is away from everyone else part taking in stereotypical female activities. This is represented in the saying, “Mother was at work out in the kitchen at the back, washing up the tea-things”. This quote suggests to the reader that the mother has been put in a position where her role is removed from the general masculine activity and she is to carry out the normal everyday jobs of a female.

‘The Drover’s Wife’ extensively uses verbs to present the physical nature of the women. Henry Lawson constructs her character as a resilient woman without making her sound harsh and distant towards others. Henry Lawson purely depicts her from the title ‘The Drover’s Wife’ which is the use of irony to express her. The text implies her realization of her limitations of being a bush-women and taking over the stereotypical female activities. Being the wife of a drover brings out cultural assumptions towards the reader and adds identity towards women. This is shown through the quotes “gaunt, sun browned bush women” and “she put on an old pair of her husband’s trousers”. The descriptions present the reader with an insight into the hardship of the bush especially for women and not as much men. The representation seen in these quotes is that young women are being wasted in the typical landscape that a stereotypical woman should be in taking on the responsibilities of parenting children all day, experiencing grief and threats of being in isolation. Furthermore, the saying “she made bullets and fired at him through cracks in the slabs with an old shot-gun” represents the imagery of what is happening through the hands of the Drover’s wife. She is represented through actions as heroic and stands up for herself while facing the many dangers of the Australian outback where she lives while her husband is away from home. The identity has been extended and shows that rural women are harder on themselves and more tough than the city women.

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The short story ‘The Drover’s Wife’ by Henry Lawson is about a mother who is left alone in isolation to take control and care of her four children. The mother faces many threats while living out in the Australian bush and is put in the shoes of a typical Australian bushmen which is out of the normal women roles in society to fend for herself and her four children. In the opening paragraph of ‘The Drover’s Wife’, Henry Lawson establishes the hardships of the isolated environment the mother and her children are living in. Negative visual and auditory images are expressed through the quotes “The stunted, rotten native apple trees” and “a few she-oaks… sighing above the narrow almost waterless creek”. These quotes are juxtaposed by “The gaunt sun brown women” and her “four legged dried up looking children”. Henry Lawson focuses on exploring the environment and the surroundings of the environment which shapes our meaning of the Australian values within our culture and being able to survive out in the relentless Australian bush environment.

‘Our Pipes’ short story approaches and provides and insight into isolation and how the environment impacts that isolation differently to ‘The Drover’s Wife’. “Fringe of mulga” represents the use of slang language, “timber proper, which is very thick and dark” shows the visual imagery of where the scene is set and “the moon looked like a big new copper boiler set on the edge on the horizon of the plain” represents the use of colloquial language. These quotes emphasize the use of different language that an average city man would use compared to an Australian bushman. The visual imagery creates a harsh environment where the swagmen come to rest at the end of the day after being out working for numerous extended hours which shows the determination that they have. This gives the reader an insight as to how their isolation differs to ‘The Drover’s Wife’. In ‘Our Pipes’ the isolation is depicted more throughout the day as they are working and then come together in a small community at the end of the day to share stories and experiences throughout the day. The effects of the swagmen’s journey are ongoing throughout the night giving them little to no time for relief.

This challenges my beliefs and perspectives of the Australian outback and swagmen and women. I have always seen and been in the Australian outback and know how hard people work to get what they want. It challenges me though as the isolation does not feel so bad doing what you love and being away from the wider community.

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Exploring Personal Identity in Henry Lawson’s Short Stories ‘Our Pipes’ and ‘The Drover’s Wife’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 3, 2023, from
“Exploring Personal Identity in Henry Lawson’s Short Stories ‘Our Pipes’ and ‘The Drover’s Wife’.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
Exploring Personal Identity in Henry Lawson’s Short Stories ‘Our Pipes’ and ‘The Drover’s Wife’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Oct. 2023].
Exploring Personal Identity in Henry Lawson’s Short Stories ‘Our Pipes’ and ‘The Drover’s Wife’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2023 Oct 3]. Available from:
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