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Distinctively Visual Essay

Distinctively visual imagery can either entice or distance us from the world of the characters. Through language and rhythm, the readers become absorbed in the action and dynamics of the narrative or empathetic observers of the struggles of others. Henry Lawson’s short stories ‘The Drover’s Wife’ and ‘In a Dry Season’ evoke a harsh, arid landscape but also sympathetic characters that struggle to survive. In contrast, the ballad ‘The Man From Snowy River’ by A.B (Banjo). Patterson entices us in a world of action, excitement and mountain beauty that draws the audience into the world of the ballad. Thus images absorb us but we may feel that we are spectators or participants in the world of the text.

Henry Lawson uses different language techniques in his short story, ‘The Drover’s Wife’, to convey the struggle of living in the Australian outback. Lawson’s techniques paint a scorched and barren landscape, which conveys to the audience, the characters battle to live in such conditions. These techniques that Lawson has skillfully used include repetition, colour imagery and irony. Lawson uses the repetition of “ Snake! Mother, here’s a snake!” so the audience would feel the urgency and the traumatising experience that the character is going through. This gives the audience an understanding of the struggle of every day life in the Australian outback. Lawson also uses colour imagery to draw a distinctively visual image of the dog, Alligator. ‘Black, yellow-eyed dog-of-all-breeds’ Lawson describes the dog as if it is mutant-like and a terrifying out of the ordinary dog. This shows us that the dog has had to adapt to the country and become abnormal just to live through every day. This makes the audience feel scared of the bizarre dog, but also they also sympathize with it as it is living in such severe conditions.

The repetition of ‘She fought’ emphasizes how the mother must fight to keep her home and children safe. She does not stop fighting to survive in the Australian outback for herself, her children, her dog and her home. The audience is meant to feel sympathetic towards the mother as she gets no rest and everyday she must work and fight to survive. The audience is given a feeling that this is not home for the faint hearted. They are intrigued, however, they do not want to partake in the world of the text. The irony of, ‘She loves her children, but has no time to show it. She is harsh to them.’ Gives the effect of the mother being the strong woman type and doesn’t show affection. But this doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to show her children affection, it merely means that with all the work that is required of her in the Australian outback, she does not have the time. This makes the audience feel sympathetic towards the mother and her children. They feel sorry for the children that they cannot spend as much family time with their mother as most families would. ‘The Drover’s Wife’ gives a negative feel of the outback and allows you to stand by the story but you are not invited in. The audience does not want to experience the harsh outback. One technique that is used is long sentences.

Similarly, the short story ‘In a Dry Season’ by Henry Lawson uses techniques to convey the struggle of living in the Australian outback and also makes the audience feel intrigued by the story but do not want to participate in the world of the text. Lawson uses imperative, minimalist descriptions and a stereotypical setting to make the audience spectators in the world of the text in an unromanticised fashion. ‘Draw a wire fence’ this technique that Lawson uses is demanding our attention and involvement of the story. He is forcing the audience to draw the story and by doing this, they cannot participate in the world of the text.

However, since the outback is so rough and unforgiving, the audience does not feel they want to participate anyway. ‘A wire fence… Few ragged gums… Scattered sheep running… Train’, this use of minimalist description reduces the landscape to just 4 key characteristics. By doing this, Lawson emphasizes the monotony of the bush. This makes the audience to feel the harsh ruggedness of the dull landscape. This then pushes them away from the world of the text and forces them to stay observers of the short story. The stereotypical setting that Lawson draws emphasizes the sameness of the bush. He draws the landscape broadly repeating, “it is safe to…” encouraging the audience to assume that most towns share the same features. This shows that majority of the Australian outback is the same with their stores, pub, houses and the bush area. With the audience thinking this commonality between many small towns, they feel as though they want to stay observers rather than just being forced observers.

Alternatively, ‘The Man From Snowy River’, a ballad written by A.B. (Banjo) Patterson, entices the audience and draws them into the story to live it out. He romanticises the Australian outback making the audience believe that the outback is a beautiful place to live with little worries. Banjo Patterson constructs this view of the Australian outback through its use of techniques. These techniques that Banjo Paterson has masterfully used throughout the ballad are alliteration, rhyming and rhythm. One technique used by Banjo Patterson is alliteration, ‘And they charged beneath the stock whip with a sharp and sudden dash’ and ‘thunder of their tread’, which is used to make the ballad more intriguing and enticing for the audience. This then has the effect of making the audience want to participate in the world of the text as the outback is romanticised and seems enjoyable. Rhyming couplets such as the following were used throughout the ballad to give it flair and rhythm: “Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash, But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,

And they charged beneath the stock whip with a sharp and sudden dash, And off into the mountain scrub they flew.” The rhyming and rhythm throughout the ballad gives the audience a jubilant feel and also romanticises the Australian outback. Because of this, the audience feels that the outback is a joyful place to live; they feel intrigued and are drawn into the world of the text and want to participate in the story.

Therefore, the short stories ‘Drover’s Wife’ and ‘In a Dry Season’ by Henry Lawson induce the monotony of the Australian outback and the sympathetic characters that struggle to survive everyday life. Audiences feel as though they as observers of the unromanticised short stories and are not a part of the world of the text. In contrast, the ballad ‘The Man From Snowy River’ by A.B. (Banjo) Patterson shows a romanticised view of the Australian outback. Banjo Patterson writes of the action, excitement and the mountain beauty seen in his view of the outback. This entices the audience and makes them feel as though they are participants in the world of the ballad. Consequently, images engage us but we may either feel that we are spectators or participants of the world of the text.

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