On the Edge of a Plain

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"On the Edge of a Plain"
Author Henry Lawson
Country Australia
Language English
Series Jack Mitchell stories
Published in The Bulletin
Media type print (periodical)
Publication date 6 May 1893

"On The Edge Of A Plain" is a sketch story by Australian writer Henry Lawson, featuring his recurring character Jack Mitchell. The story was originally published in The Bulletin on 6 May 1893, and was collected in While the Billy Boils in 1896.[1] It is considered among Lawson's best Mitchell stories.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Mitchell and his mate drop their swags, and sit down in the mulga shade on the edge of a plain. Mitchell reflects about the last time he saw his family, after having been away for eight years. While he speaks, he holds a young cattle-pup, and intercuts his tale with the occasional observation about the pup's feet, or a request for a knife. With the tale complete, Mitchell and his mate take up their swags, "[turn] their unshaven faces to the wide, hazy distance, and [leave] the timber behind them."

Writing Style[edit]

"On The Edge Of A Plain" is an example of the "sketch story," a style of short story of which Lawson was particularly fond.[1] The story itself contains very little plot, and simply describes one particular moment in Mitchell's life.

Reception[edit]

"On The Edge Of The Plain" has been cited as the "perfect" example of an effective sketch story.[1] Critic John Barnes believes that the story was ahead of its time, writing that "to a modern reader of Chekhov, the art of this little story is quickly recognised, but the originality of what Lawson was doing on his own went unremarked when While the Billy Boils was published in 1896."[1]

Publication Details[edit]

  • First Published: Bulletin, 6 May 1893.
  • Source: While The Billy Boils, Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1896

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e The Penguin Henry Lawson Short Stories (first published 1986); with an introduction by John Barnes, Camberwell, Victoria: Penguin Books Australia, pp. 1-16, 221-6