Her surroundings are not favorable to the "womanly" or sentimental side of nature.
The essence of the drover's wife's life is captured in this line, as is the theme of woman's struggle. The drover's wife lives secluded in a harsh environment. She has to take care of four children, 'mere babies', on her own. Her husband has been gone for six months and she has to be strong, not just for herself but also for her children. This includes fighting all kinds of horrors that life throws at her, such as bush fires, floods, mad bullocks and many other struggles. This makes her slightly rugged in nature.
But all her hopes and dreams have been long dead. She finds all the excitement and enjoyment she needs in the 'Young Ladies Journal.'
At first this seems a rather melancholy line. The drover's wife is alone in the bush and has lost all of her girlish hopes and dreams and has nothing but struggle and adversity to contend with. However, readers may be coming at this with their own biases; after all, she is actually content. She knows what her life is and does not rail against it. She says later that at first she did not like the bush but has come to accept it and would feel strange if she left it. It is part of her character not to get bogged down in possibilities but to accept where she is at.
She put on an old pair of her husband's trousers and tried to beat out the fire with a green tree branch.
It is a lovely and symbolic moment in the text when the drover's wife puts on her husband's pants to fight the fire, because she is clearly "wearing the pants" in all respects out here in the bush while he is away. She literally does everything for her family and on their land; all obstacles that come their way are hers to fight. She is stoic, smart, and steadfast; clearly she does not need actual trousers to be the leader of the household.
He plans to move his family into the nearest town when he comes back.
We don't know much about the drover himself. We see him through the eyes of his wife, and although she does not seem like a woman prone to exaggeration or sentimentalism, it's still the case that we never get to judge him for ourselves. We hear that he is "careless" and that he occasionally sleeps with other women when he is away, but that he is a good husband and provides for his family. Perhaps the most salient thing about him, though, and the thing that distinguishes him from his wife, is that he still has hope. He is still optimistic things will turn around. He thinks he will be able to get back on a good financial footing and get a buggy again. His wife does not share the same hopefulness; she has long since abandoned her dreams, and is more or less content with her lot no matter how far from ideal it seems. Her resignation allows her to survive against the odds, which may give the reader pause in terms of whether or not we expect her "careless" and confident husband will come back from his long journey.
She thinks of things in her own life, for there is little else to think about.
One of the interesting things about the story is that while about half of it is actual narrative, the other half takes place within the mind of the drover's wife. The narrator is third-person omniscient, so we have access to the drover's wife's thoughts, but we do not see the events play out in real time. This does several things. First, it emphasizes the loneliness of the place. With little else to stimulate one's mind, one's thoughts are quite prominent. Second, it gives us access not only to the events that shaped her life but also her innermost thoughts about them. Third, it douses the events with a tinge of melancholy, for they are not happening now, but are difficult moments that she, no doubt given the isolation of the place, relives over and over again. Finally, the different layers of reality and the movement in time (her reveries abruptly end and we are plunged back into the present when the snake comes out) help the story to present a rich and compelling imaginative world.
The Drover’s Wife Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Drover’s Wife is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Lawson has chosen the bush for his setting, a wild, untamed, locatio with little or no inhabitation. The Drover's wife has no neighbors.... she spends most of her time without her husband, trying to protect and care for her children.