In a Dry Season by Henry Lawson
In In a Dry Season by Henry Lawson we have the theme of struggle, hardship, isolation, resilience and perseverance. Taken from his While the Billy Boils collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Lawson may be exploring the theme of hardship. Everything in the railway town that the narrator has stopped off at is dull. There is no sense of joy anywhere. If anything things are practical or at least there seems to be an attempt to make things practical. There is a store, a school and a pub and very little else. Lawson may also be using the clothing of some of the people at the in the town to highlight the lack of life that exists in the town. This is particularly noticeable with the hats having ‘three inches of crape round the crown’. Symbolising death. In reality Lawson may be suggesting that the town and those who live at the town are lifeless. Very much like the land that the narrator sees. It too lacks any sort of life or growth. It is as though the land and man are the same in the outback. They are lifeless or at least directionless. Something that is noticeable with the character who has a letter from the Government Labour Bureau. He doesn’t really know where he is going. In reality the environment that the narrator sees is hostile to those who rely on it.
It may also be significant that Lawson makes no mention of there being any women in the town. By excluding any female characters in the story it is possible that Lawson is suggesting that the town is male dominated. That being the role of the female is to stay at home. There also appears to be hazards in the town. Something that is noticeable when the sundowner kills the snake on the street. It is as though the town is not developed as one would expect a town maybe in the city to be. Life is different in a railway town and there are different dangers. Dangers that would not be found in the city. There also appears to be a role that each character in the story plays and which they do not deviate from. There is absolutely no sense of community in the town. Everybody who is there is there with a purpose. To either avail of the facilities of the public house or to use the store (or go to the school). In essence the town itself is barren just as the land is.
The theme of isolation is self-evident in the story. The town is a railway town in the outback. Only those with a purpose stay in the town. The rest stay on the train till they reach their final destination. Most likely the city or a larger more prosperous town. It is also interesting that none of the characters with the exception of Jim are given a name. This could be important as Lawson may be attempting to generalize all people who live in railway towns. With each person being the same. It is also noticeable that Lawson doesn’t name the town which again would play on the idea of generalization with Lawson possibly suggesting that all railway towns are the same. Though some critics will also argue that the reason no character is given a name is because the narrator is only passing through the town and doesn’t actually know anyone. He is merely making observations about the environment around him and the people he sees.
There is also a sense that bushmen are resilient or have the ability to persevere. No matter what life has thrown at them they still seem to be able to move forward. With the exception of Jim who is a liar there is a sense that bushmen have to be tough in order to survive in the outback. They also do not suffer fools gladly. Something that is noticeable by the fact that the bushman on the train stands up and confronts Jim due to Jim’s lying. Life is a serious affair for those who live in the outback. Apart from an occasional drink in a public house they have no other avenues of escape. Life is harsh and they feel its harshness every day. The comforts that are easily taken for granted by those who live in the city do not exist in the outback. The living arrangements are basic. The land can beat a man. There are no luxuries whatsoever. Yet many men decide upon working and living in the outback. No matter how harsh the conditions are they persevere and keep looking forward. Meeting each challenge that they come across head on. It is as though those who live in the outback will not be beaten by all that life throws at them. They have made a decision to live in the outback regardless of all the difficulties they are assured to incur.