The Union Buries Its Dead Essay, Research Paper
Henry Lawson s The Union buries its dead is a story which explores the procedure of a union burial for a man whose identity is unknown and whose presence was obviously barely noticed. He was stranger in town, and the fact of his having been a Union man accounted for the funeral . The story that surrounds the burial is told through the eyes of a narrator who seems to be jaded by a world who pretends to care. Thus, through the realistic narrator s bitter tone and language we are led to believe that the majority of members in the small town possess anything but true feelings for the deceased union man. As we discover this realism by the end of the story we can see that the burial of this unknown man would have been fortunate to have had little or any impact on anyone.
Throughout the story the narrator is positioned in relation to the characters as a local within the town but perhaps an outsider in his thoughts and values. In general, he seems to assign great degrees of importance to non-linguistic forms of communication and positions the reader to make judgements on any action that takes place on the day of the burial. But, whether we endorse the narrator s views or reject them, the narrator can only see what he sees, and he cannot pretend to a knowledge he does not have. Therefore, assumptions and remarks like the grave-digger was not altogether bowelless lead us to doubt the reliability of his narration. As a mere bystander at the burial he can not describe people s inner thoughts or make presumptions on whether or not the grave-digger is a very compassionate man or if he is indeed a shallow man.
The spoken language and actions of the characters in the story however do tend to make a mockery of the situation and further indicate the lack of compassion exerted by the general public towards the defunct union man.
You d have taken more notice if you d known he was doomed to die in the hour .
To be sure .If ye d known that ye d prolonged the conversation.
Evidently, the narrator s civil and mature language differentiates him from the general crowd.
The narrator s ardent morals and perhaps religious background are echoed in yet another example of the blatant disregard of the dead. This occurs when an ignorant publican makes a farce of the funeral by holding the priests hat two inches above the priests head. However, the priest oblivious to the juvenile behaviour of the publican compliments the narrator s bitter comments like It didn t matter much nothing does . Additionally, the narrator, by use of sarcastic language pinpoints the inhumane values of the ignorant publican. He couldn t, as an ignorant and conceited ass, lose such a good opportunity of asserting his faithfulness and importance to his church . This key passage also promotes the importance of religious observance in this outback setting.
As the story draws to a close it is evident that the narrator begins to become fatigued by the burial of this stranger as he describes the last scenes with a great sense of realism and truth. The picture painted by the narrator s powerful words adds a degree of sincerity to the narrator s values and portrays the unfortunate fact that the union man was indeed a nobody. Thus, there is no conveyance of the heartbroken mournful family, nor is there an illustration of the beautiful lonely wife, but instead the cold reality that these people were no doubt absent in this man s existence. As the story further unfolds we can definitely see the appropriateness and relevance of the title. The title leaves us without a name of the union man, as does the story, and therefore seeks to depict the feeling that the union man was exactly that, just a union man. His real name was unknown by everyone, the presence of his friends and family were absent, and so it is suitable that the title reads The union buries its dead , for if was not for his label of a union man the burial would not have taken place.