Drover S Wife Essay Contest

An Analysis of 'The Drover's Wife'

1446 WordsJan 29th, 20186 Pages


A contemporary reading of The Drover's Wife suggests that the author, Henry Lawson, is engaging in a little misdirection. That is to say that the title of the story deemphasizes the principal character's autonomy by referring to her as the wife of a hapless drover instead of the fearless, rugged, self-reliant woman she proves to be. The idea that she belongs to the drover, that she is his property (as opposed to him being her husband/property) is a hard pill to swallow after the reader learns of her exploits in the unforgiving bush.
After all, she spend the majority of her time alone, she is raising the children, she - along with the fierce yellow dog - are protecting the home front from drifters and serpents and presumably whatever else the bellicose bush throws at her. The point is, this story, if written in today's post-feminist milieu, would be called "The Bushwoman" or something of that nature, not the Drover's wife. Her toughness, her calloused existence, is made apparent in the following lines, "But this bushwoman is used to the loneliness of it. As a girl-wife she hated it, but now she would feel strange away from it." She's no longer a 'girl-wife,' she's no longer defined by her nuptial agreement; she's a bona fide bushwoman.

(Bonus: I personally love the following description of Alligator, it's probably my favorite part of any of the three stories, "He sometimes makes friends with strangers. He hates snakes and has killed…

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The Drover's Wife was also awarded the $30,000 Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting, described by judges as a "bold and exciting contribution to Australian playwriting and arguably, to Australia's very identity".

Other award winners include: The Museum of Modern Love, by Heather Rose (fiction), Letter to Pessoa, by Michelle Cahill (new writing),Ghostspeaking by Peter Boyle (poetry), Iris and Tiger by Leanne Hall (children's literature) and One Thousand Hills by James Roy and Noël Zihabamwe.

Senior judge, Suzanne Leal, said Purcell had taken a "well-known, well-loved story and turned it on its head".

"Purcell's writing is faultless. The rhythm is beautiful, the tone is beautiful and the characterisation is exquisite. It's an extraordinary piece of work and literature that is a play, not a novel, and it makes no difference to the quality of the writing and the importance of the themes she explores."

Purcell's inherited her copy of The Drover's Wife from her mother.

"I'd go mum, 'tell me that story,' because I was a mongrel kid with sleeping and, poor thing, she would be reciting it to me.

"And I'd get her to stop so I could have the last word where that little boy would go, "Mother, I won't never go drovin''. I would be prompting her as she was falling off to sleep.

"It's been in me – well, I'm 47 this year – for 40 years. Just the way it was in the bookshelf, it was just tipped down a little bit, and it's got a red back cover and I went, 'yeah!''

Using Lawson's story as inspiration, Purcell wove her own great-grandfather's story into her story treatment.

Purcell confirms there is to be a national and international tour of the play and a feature film is in the works in which she will write and star. Purcell is also in discussions with a publisher to turn the script into a novel.

Leal says Australia's literary traditions encompass all forms.

"We are a country in which our literature is to be lauded," she said. "We are a country of great poets, playwrights, screenwriters and novelists and non-fiction writers both for adults and children and we should applaud the diversity of our talents in their many forms."


Book of the Year ($10,000)
The Drover's Wife, Leah Purcell (Currency Press and Belvoir in association with Oombarra Productions)

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000)
The Museum of Modern Love, Heather Rose (Allen & Unwin)

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing ($5000 – sponsored by UTS)
Letter to Pessoa, Michelle Cahill (Giramondo Press)

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-fiction ($40,000)
Our Man Elsewhere: In Search of Alan Moorehead, Thornton McCamish (Black Inc.)

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry ($30,000)
Ghostspeaking, Peter Boyle (Vagabond Press)

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature ($30,000)
Iris and Tiger, Leanne Hall (Text Publishing)

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People's Literature ($30,000)
One Thousand Hills, James Roy and Noël Zihabamwe (Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia)

Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting ($30,000)
The Drover's Wife, Leah Purcell (Currency Press and Belvoir in association with Oombarra Productions)

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting ($30,000)
The Code, Series 2 Episode 4, Shelley Birse (Playmaker Media)
Down Under, Abe Forsythe (Riot Film Pty Ltd)

Multicultural NSW Award ($20,000)
The Hate Race, Maxine Beneba Clarke (Hachette Australia)

The NSW Premier's Translation Prize ($30,000)
Royall Tyler

Multicultural NSW Early Career Translator Prize ($5000)
Jan Owen

People's Choice Award
Vancouver #3 in the series Wisdom Tree, Nick Earls (Inkerman & Blunt)

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