Joe Wilson’s Courtship – Henry Lawson
This story uses first person narrative to explore an important humanist approach to courtship. It is best described as a story sketch as it provides good developed characters and a story that develops through a non-linear first person narrative. We are made aware of the protagonists thoughts as the composer lets us inside Joe’s head.
Cyclically the story begins and ends with an imperative to consider the importance ‘your courting days’ to a relationship. So often with the notion of romance and marriage the perspective a responder is provided with is a particularly female one. In this case it is definably male and typical to Lawson that of a bush personality.
Joe Wilson is shy, awkward and decidedly single. He and a friend take a job for a local man, Black, and a young girl Mary lives there who Joe is introduced and attracted to. The story starts by looking at the right of passage between boyhood to manhood. The narrative voice outlines that the pleasures of being a boy include: enjoying skinny dipping in a creek with mates, when his father buys him a gun, when he gets a saddle and bridle, when he has his arm in a splint or a stitch in his head. We are then told that the speaker is not the ‘average boy’ and was ‘born for a poet instead.’ This would explain the displacement and confliction that is felt by the narrator concerning his role as a man.
Rite of passage – boy to man
Next we are introduced to the rite of passage for men. Importantly the pleasures of youth have transformed into more family oriented matters: finding out that a girl loves you; When he is out of debt and can see clear ahead, when he’s just married; When he’s a lawful father for the first time.
This climaxes in the narrator’s conclusion that: ‘…the happiest time in a man’s life is when he’s courting a girl and finds out for sure that she loves him hasn’t a thought for anyone else.’ This is of course the focus of this story as...