On the Edge of a Plain Background

On the Edge of a Plain Background

Henry Lawson’s sketch story “On the Edge of a Plain” features a recurring character who pops up time and again throughout the author’s canon. The character and at least a few of the incidents he get involved was partly inspired by a real-life traveling companion of Lawson named J.W. Gordon.

Like the rest of the stories in which Jack Mitchell plays a leading role, “On the Edge of a Plain” truly fits the definition of a “sketch story” because Lawson flings the reader directly into the action without wasting time on the provision of a back story, context or gradual buildup toward the meat of the plot. He simply gets in and out of the narrative with the precision of a bush doctor doing emergency surgery on the fly.

“On the Edge of a Plain” was originally published in The Bulletin in May, 1893 and then reappeared three years later in Lawson’s collection titled While the Billy Boils. At just over 500 words, “On the Edge of a Plain” truly meets the definition of what a sketch story should be and many critics contend that it is not just the apotheosis of Lawson’s collection of such stories, but stands as one of the best ever written—if, indeed, not the very model of what of a sketch story could and should achieve.

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