Shooting the Moon by Henry Lawson
In Shooting the Moon by Henry Lawson we have the theme of friendship, identity, struggle, pride, perseverance and connection. 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 friendship. Despite trying to evade the Landlord. Jack and the Landlord become friends. As too does Tom become friends with Jack. Despite the fact that Jack cannot recall what Tom’s surname may have been. Even though they travelled the bush for ten years together. This may be significant as identity may not necessarily be important to Jack. Once a man was good to him. Generally speaking Jack was good to them. He doesn’t appear to have asked any of his friends about their background. As if it mattered to him. Rather he accepted a person on face value and was unconcerned about their past. Which may be the point that Lawson is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that those who made their living as swagmen. Though they might have had a previous undesirable past. This did not necessarily effect their relationship with another swagman. If anything Lawson may be suggesting that everybody regardless of their occupation or class. Has something to hide.
It might also be significant that Jack was going to beat Tom up at first as Lawson may be using this incident to suggest that a person’s identity or character (good or bad) cannot be assessed just on an individual’s initial appraisal of another person. Tom is a decent man who is willing to help Jack rather than report him to the Landlord. Something which Jack thinks Tom might do at first. The Landlord himself is also a friendly and obliging character. Rather than beat Jack and Tom up. He helps them through a difficult patch in their lives. Though some critics might suggest that the Landlord is buying Jack and Tom’s friendship. This may not be the case as he has no reason to do so. He may in fact simply be a kind and generous person. Who believes in helping others who are less fortunate and there is no disputing that both Jack and Tom are in dire need of help. They have no money and they have no food to feed themselves with.
What is also interesting about the story is that despite the view that some critics or readers might have about Jack being of good character. The fact that he lets the narrator interrupt him and make jokes about his tale suggests that Jack is a good natured man. He does not necessarily hold grudges and understands when people poke fun at him. It is also interesting that Jack doesn’t let others who insult his friends away with it. Though it is eventually Tom who resolves the matter. Which may suggest that Jack may be proud to help and look after his friends but may not necessarily have the means to do so. Jack has also incurred enough difficulties that he has an escape plan. Though extreme he still has a plan to kill himself with his revolver should things get too much for him. This too might be important as it shows that Jack has the ability to feel and with the ability to feel comes the ability to connect with others who might be like-minded. So important is the revolver that it is the only thing Jack has never sold or pawned.
The end of the story is also interesting as Lawson adds a degree of sadness. Tom is dead and Jack never talks about it. As to whether this might be something that is too painful for Jack is difficult to say as the story ends when the reader hears that Tom has died. However it is possible that Jack has never forgotten his friendship with Tom and that the wound is still open. Which may suggest again that Jack has the ability to feel. Though negatively he still has the ability to feel. Life has not yet beaten Jack. It might have taken Tom but Jack appears to have persevered. His connection to and with Tom remains. In reality Jack’s tale is one of human frailty. How one might struggle in life and get through some ordeals cleanly. Yet other incidents in a person’s life may affect them deeply. To the point that they do not wish to talk about it. Something that may be the case for Jack at the end of the story. Though Jack has told a humorous tale. It also has its serious side. That being that friendship is imperative to the swagman. Who will not judge you for your previous actions in life nor will he delve into your past. For the swagman your first name is enough for him to form a friendship with you.