Settling on The Land | Summary and Analysis

Summary of Settling on The Land by Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson’s story “Settling on the Land deals with the themes of subject of adversity, determination, acceptance, and regret. The narrative, which is taken from his collection “While the Billy Boils”, is told in the third person by an unidentified narrator, and the readers can identify right away that Lawson is addressing the issues of adversity. Drovinglife on the frontier, and connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are all important themes in Settling On the Land. 

While the Billy Boils includes stories like The Bush Undertaker and Settling on The Land, the summary and analysis of which may be found in the link below: 

Summary of The Bush Undertaker 

Summary of Our Pipes

Settling On The Land | Summary

The story is about a man named Tom Hopkins. Years ago, he was successful in his trade in the city, but he began to believe that he could do better up-country. He made a deal with his beloved to stay true to him and wait for him while he travelled west. He chose land near Dry Hole Creek and anticipated the arrival of a horse for months. Government surveyors were supposed to fix his boundaries, but they didn’t show up, and he had to make do with what he had. He grumbles and says he had no reason to suppose they would appear within the next ten years. He built a fence at a business enterprise and began farming operations. It managed to hold the selector’s interest for a week. Tom ploughed and sowed wheat, but nothing grew—the ground was too poor—so he hauled stable manure from six miles away, manured the land, seeded another crop, and prayed for rain. It arrived and resulted in a flood.

Tom sought guidance again. The following year, there was good grass on Tom’s selection. So, he decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a few poor sheep and fatten them up for market: sheep were selling for approximately seven and a half pence a dozen at the time The sheep were chased across the field by the dogs. Tom’s nephew, who happened to be up from the city on a visit, was arrested at the squatter’s request for alleged sheep stealing and sentenced to two years’ hard labour. He also received a six-month sentence for assaulting the squatter with the intent to harm.

There was little left for Tom to live for when he came out, so he took a job as a fencer, saved a few pounds, and planned to return to the land. During the following year, he married and acquired a few cows. His wife defrauded him and fled with the dummy, and the cows died in the drought or were impounded. I was just getting started on a fence job, and I was thinking about “puttin’ in a few vines an’ stuff.” Suddenly the government surveyors—whom he’d completely forgotten about—had arrived. He began planting the orchard and relocating his home and fences to the new location. However, the squatter intervened at this point, taking possession of the land and everything on it, and filed a trespass complaint against the selector, setting the damages at £2500. 

The following year, Tom was admitted to the Parramatta mental institute, and the squatter was evicted. After being destroyed by the drought the previous summer, he was transported there the following summer. They became friends. Tom was released from the asylum a few years later. He spends a lot of time knocking about particular suburbs. He is rarely observed during the day and is primarily seen at night. His one regret, he says, is that he wasn’t found to be mentally ill before he moved up-country.

Settling On The Land | Analysis

Bush rangingdrovingdroughtsfloodslife on the frontier, and connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are all central themes in Australian folklore. All these are recurring motifs in the story. The custom dates back to the early days of European settlement, when colonists, primarily British and Irish, carried their homelands’ folk music with them. Over the next few decades, it developed into a distinct style, gaining broad appeal in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when many Australians believed it to be “an authentic representation of the national character.” Lawson has intricately woven the elements of bush poetry into the short story. The Bulletin, for example, used bush poetry to promote mateship, egalitarianism, anti-authoritarianism, and a concern for the “battler” as a concept. Henry Lawson was a contributor to the magazine. The theme of ‘battler’ is vividly portrayed in the story.

Tom didn’t give up—he was energetic.

When Tom Hopkins initially sets out to settle some land, he loses his intended bridegroom. It’s as though she’s afraid of the hardships that come with working the land and doesn’t want anything to do with it. Tom soon faces difficulties when attempting to plug a tree. He has no prior experience, and one misfortune leads to the next. The squatter takes advantage of this situation. He takes full advantage of Tom’s bad luck throughout the story. The squatter is a crucial character because he demonstrates that there is no justice in the countryside. When Tom confronts the squatter for everything he has done to him, the local justice, who is the squatter’s son-in-law, sentences Tom to six months in captivity.

Even then Tom didn’t give in—there was grit in that man.

This does not deter Tom, and he remains devoted to the property. Tom does not give up until he gets transported to the shelter. Tom eventually finds tranquillity in this location. Although Tom never gave up, he never stood a chance of achieving his ambitions. He needed Jacob’s support, but Jacob could have been just as stupid as Tom and had no idea what he was doing. Jacob’s thing to do for Tom was to present him with a cornucopia and a bottle of wine. Only Tom was capable of letting go of everything that had happened to him. The wine catalyzed Tom’s eventual admission of defeat.

The fact that Tom believes he was mentally ill before settling his land is particularly noteworthy, as it suggests that Tom is kindly in denial about the influence the land had on him. Lawson may be borrowing this condition of Tom from his personal life since he also suffered from mental health issues. Tom’s belief that he was horrible before venturing out indicates that he hasn’t fully absorbed what has happened to him. He was out of luck and had to overcome every possible obstacle. In truth, Tom, despite his good intentions, had no chance. He may have been successful in the city, but husbandry requires a distinct set of skills and a certain amount of luck.

It’s also curious that Tom found himself in a woman. Despite this, his woman is given no say in the plot. The audience is left to speculate as to why Tom might have married. Was that his way of expressing his need for assistance, or was he simply lonely? There is no mention of what may have happened to his earlier prospective bride when he returns to the megacity.

 All of Tom’s effort and time spent establishing the land seems to have been for naught. After all, he was tilling the incorrect land, which would have surprised Tom. Despite this, he remained undefeated determined and unfit to accept defeat. Is it any surprise that Tom sought refuge at a shelter? Over the years, he has gone through more than most individuals do in a lifetime. Lawson is likely implying that some people in the megacity, such as Tom may have brilliant ideas for settling the land, but the fact is that you need to know something about what you’re doing. People living in different places lead very different lives, and Tom was in no way equipped to adjust to his new lifestyle.

Settling On The Land | Themes

Henry Lawson has discussed the themes of adversitydeterminationacceptance, and regret through the story “Settling on the Land”. One of the primary characteristics of bush poetry is the portrayal of the man as a battler. Lawson has borrowed this theme which runs throughout the story. Despite being met with considerable setbacks, Toms seems to be the character who doesn’t give up. He is met with various adversities, sometimes in terms of natural causes and sometimes in terms of the people around him, but he keeps going. Mateship is another important carry out from the story. It gets reflected in the friendship between the squatter and Tom during their stay at the asylum. Tom accepts whatever happens in his life and moves forward to something else. He doesn’t give up. the only regret he seems to have comes towards the end of the story. 

He says his one great regret is that he wasn’t found to be of unsound mind before he went up-country.


Settling On The Land | Title of the Story

After reading the story, the title of the story appears ironic. Despite his best efforts, a city person is unable to establish himself in the countryside. This demonstrates that success in the city does not necessarily imply success in the countryside. Tom’s character has been used to make a point.

Settling On The Land | Character Sketch

Tom Hopkins – The character of Tom is an intriguing one. Despite various setbacks, he never gives up. Although the squatter had previously made his life difficult, Tom befriends him during their stay at the asylum. His character shows gritperseverance and strength and yet he fails. The primary reason is his techniques were not well suited for surviving in the countryside. He had spent his entire life in the city and lacked the necessary abilities to survive in the countryside.



Settling On The Land| About the Author

Henry Archibald Hertzberg Lawson was a bush poet and Australian writer. He was born on the 17th of June 1867 in a town on the New South Wales goldfields of Grenfell. Lawson is widely regarded as Australia’s “greatest short story writer” and is one of the most well-known poets and fiction writers of the colonial period. In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses (1896), While the Billy Boils (1896), On the Track and over the Sliprails (1900), Children of the Bush (1902), and Triangles of Life and Other Stories (1903) are among Lawson’s best-known works. Humankind versus environment, gender, colonialism and racism, isolation and vulnerability, desire, and poverty are all major themes in Lawson’s works. Lawson was the first Australian writer to be given a state funeral when he died in 1922 from a brain hemorrhage.







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