The Loaded Dog by Henry Lawson
In the Loaded Dog by Henry Lawson we have the theme of fear, struggle, hardship, control and perseverance. Taken from his Joe Wilson and His Mates collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Lawson through humour may be exploring the theme of fear. There is no doubting that Tommy thinks his carrying of the cartridge is a game yet it is a serious affair for all those around him particularly Dave, Andy and Jim. Originally Dave had planned on using the cartridge to bore a hole in the river bed (to get more fish) however things don’t work out that way. The fact that Dave was using the cartridge to make a hole in the river may be important as in many ways it plays on the theme of struggle and hardship. It is winter and the fish are scarce and all three men need something not only to eat but in order to get meat from the butcher they have to catch extra fish to exchange them for the meat. Symbolically the cartridge may also be important as it is possible that Lawson is using it to highlight to the reader the dangers that bushmen face while in the bush. Life is not easy or comfortable for them. It is as though they are living on the edge of nowhere without any of the comforts an individual would be accustomed to. If anything the cartridge though dangerous is also an instrument or tool of necessity to Dave, Andy and Jim.
Tommy is also interesting as his perseverance matches that of his three owners. Just as they persevere and attempt to find gold. Tommy does not give up when he has the cartridge in his mouth. To Tommy the whole affair is a game that he is enjoying. It is also possible that Lawson is deliberately highlighting not only Tommy’s perseverance but Dave, Andy and Jim’s too. It is possible that he is suggesting that should one live in the bush they have to keep looking forward and not give up. Though Dave, Andy and Jim have the dream of finding gold as a motivation they still nonetheless have to continue working. They don’t know if the gold is ten feet or hundred feet underground. Their efforts at times can be fruitless and as such fortitude and perseverance is required by all three men. Unlike those in the city who would be rewarded for their efforts with a salary. At times the efforts of all three men may bear no fruit.
The detail that Lawson goes into when explaining the work of Dave, Andy and Jim highlights the serious side of working in the bush. Each man is fully aware that if things are not done properly something can go wrong which may result in fatalities. This may be important as it suggests just how dangerous life in the bush can be for those who live there. Nothing can be taken for granted while Dave, Andy and Jim are working. They have to keep cool heads which is somewhat ironic as Tommy’s actions do not suggest that either Dave, Andy or Jim have cool heads. They are running away from Tommy as fast as they can. In a complete state of panic. If anything all three men lose control for the first time in the story. Which may be a point that Lawson is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that should an individual who lives in the bush lose control there will be dangerous consequences. Control is something that is important while living in the bush. If a man (or woman) loses control while in the bush they are putting their lives at risk. In the case of the story Lawson is using a humorous slant to place an emphasis on what may happen if one does not remain in control.
It may also be important that the other men in the shanty town do not hold any ill will towards Dave even though he is responsible for what has happened. It may be a case that Lawson is suggesting that those who live in the bush know how tough and unpredictable life is in the bush and as such are not surprised by some of the events that happen. The reader is also aware that should the same events have occurred in a larger town or city there would be repercussions for Dave with a prison sentence being assured. If anything the men in the shanty town are good natured about what has happened. Something that is noticeable by the fact that they tease Dave when they are walking by his camp. Those in the shanty town can see the funny side of things which may suggest that those who live in the shanty town (or bush) have a sense of humour which differs from those who might life in a larger town or city. It may also be important that Tommy remains completely unaware of what he has done. Though he may be a dog the reader does not sense that Tommy has learnt anything. He remains as innocent and playful as he has always been.