On the Edge of a Plain by Henry Lawson
In On the Edge of a Plain by Henry Lawson we have the theme of happiness, freedom, connection, and independence. Taken from his While the Billy Boils collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Lawson may be exploring the theme of happiness. Mitchell’s family though they are in shock to see Mitchell are still nonetheless happy to see him. Something that is understandable considering that Mitchell’s family thought that Mitchell was dead. This may be significant as Lawson could be highlighting how lonely life can be for a person in the bush. Having no contact at all with their families. If anything Mitchell was isolated from his family for the last eight years. He sent them no letters or postcards and the family did not know where exactly Mitchell was. Mitchell’s mother’s reaction to seeing Mitchell is also interesting. She nearly faints and has to sit in a chair, disbelieving what she is seeing. This too might be important because if anything Lawson is highlighting the strong connection between Mitchell’s mother and Mitchell.
Mitchell’s reappearance really is a surprise to his family which may leave some readers to suggest that the family held no hope in ever seeing Mitchell again. Life in the bush can be difficult and not everybody who becomes a bush man will survive. Mitchell it seems is one of the lucky ones. As too is his unnamed friend. They have made sacrifices in order to make a living. Sacrifices that not all men would make. They have left their family behind and traveled through the bush in order to get a job that will pay them well enough. Most bush men would not have the resilience that Mitchell has. He has spent eight years of his life in the bush and the reader assumes he may have been alone for most of that time. If anything Mitchell is a brave man who is not easily defeated. Though it is noticeable that he returns to the bush after living with his parents for a week. Some men are simply not made for working in the city and Mitchell appears to be one of these. He likes the freedom that comes with being out in the bush. He has no boss to answer to nor does he get berated by his family for not finding a job.
If anything Mitchell is independent of others and that is the way he likes it. He does not wish to take orders from another man and by going back to the bush, he doesn’t have to. He can be who he wants to be, a bushman who is in control of his own destiny. Something that his family don’t appear to understand hence them throwing Mitchell out of the family home. In reality Mitchell has no choice but to go back into the bush. He is not suited for family life or for city life. Though some critics might suggest that Mitchell’s actions are selfish. The real truth may be that Mitchell knows what he wants to do with his life. He wants to be free of the burdens that other people carry. He wants to be able to move from place to place at his own free will. This will not happen for Mitchell if he stays with his parents. After seven days without a job his parents throw Mitchell out of the family home. Where a week previously they were delighted to see him home again.
The end of the story is also interesting as Lawson appears to be exploring the theme of acceptance. Mitchell is relaxed about the position he finds himself in. Preferring if anything his life in the bush with his friend. It is as though Mitchell completely accepts that his family live a different life to him and that’s okay. They can remain in touch from a distance. It’s just that Mitchell may never return to the family home again. In reality he may have cut all ties with his family and this is something that doesn’t really bother Mitchell. He is at his happiest when he is on the plains with his friend and having no cares in the world. It’s a simple life but one that is better than the life his family have. Mitchell does not necessarily dislike his family. He just realised that it is better for him to move on and fulfill his dreams. Leaving his family to fulfill their dreams. In this way there will never be any conflict between Mitchell and his family.