"The Union Buries Its Dead" dedicates very few words to describing any one character in detail; this effectively creates a sense of detachment from everyone, especially the deceased union member.
- He respectfully follows the funeral procession, despite feeling no emotional attachment to the deceased. The narrator is often taken to be Lawson himself.
- The "defunct." J.T. wasn't his real name- "only 'the name he went by.'" He was a 'Roman,' and a young union labourer, of about twenty-five years. He had drowned while trying to swim his horses across a billabong of the Darling River.
The story was adapted for the first part of the trilogy film Three in One produced by Cecil Holmes and released in 1957. The screenplay by Rex Rienits is called Joe Wilson's Mates. No, the dead man was known by nobody in town, but here his only possession, a union membership card, shows his name. Support for unionism is depicted by an increasing number of town and farm folk falling in behind the hearse as it moves to the cemetery. Edmund Allison strongly plays a union loyalist who emerges as leader.