The Chosen Vessel

swagman on roadThis story by Barbara Baynton is culturally important in that it paints a graphic picture of the isolation and dangers faced by women living in the Australian “” during the 19th century. A woman whose husband is away working is visited by a traveling . She does not like the way he looks at her, and decides to lock herself and her baby in their house. The man does not get inside, but still gets the better of her.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Pre-Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1200 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , swagman, , , and .

General Comments on the Story

Many people see similarities between this story, first published in 1896, and Henry Lawson’s The Drover’s Wife, published four years earlier. Although both deal with the difficulties faced by women in rural Australia at the time, their focus is very different. Lawson addresses the relatively “straightforward” concept of the conflict between man (or rather woman) and nature. Baynton’s story examines the deeper question of the purpose that women are seen to serve in the outback. Are they, as Lawson suggests, almost equals who can be relied on to stand alongside their men in facing the challenges of nature? Or are they, as Baynton suggests, seen as “vessels” to be used for the purpose of producing children or receiving a man’s seed?

There are also differences in the way that the men of the bush are portrayed. Lawson presents most of his bushmen as strong, kindly, quite likeable characters. The three men who the poor woman encounters in Baynton’s story each have a major character floor. Her husband, who angrily called her a cur (cowardly dog) when she first had trouble with the cow and calf, is dominating and short-tempered. The swagman, who rapes and murders her, could well have other serious mental issues. And the rider, who leaves her to the swagman, is a meek “mother’s boy” too full of religious superstition to realize her danger.

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outback(n: outback, noncount) The country areas in Australia a long way away from the coast and cities. 13000

swagman(n: swagman pl swagmen) In Australia, a usually poor or homeless man who travels around looking for work carrying his personal possessions in a 'swag'.
(n: swag pl swags) A bundle containing a person's food and belongings, often wrapped up in a blanket to make it easy to carry. 12000

breast(n: breast pl breasts) Either one of the two soft parts on a woman's chest that produce milk when she has a baby. 3000

brooch(n: brooch pl brooches; also broach pl broaches) A decoration, especially for a woman's dress, fastened by a pin. She wore a brooch on the collar of her dress. 7000

calf(n: calf pl calves) The young of various large animals such as cow, elephant, whale etc. 5000

candle(n: candle pl candles) Wax that has been formed into a stick or another shape and has a string in the middle that can be burned to give light. 3000

creek(n: creek pl creeks) A small stream. 10000

creep(v: creep, creeps, crept, creeping} To move slowly, quietly or secretly. 3000

crow(n: crow pl crows) 1. A kind of large (usually black) bird. 2. The cry of a rooster. 5000

election(n: election pl elections) The act or process of choosing someone for a public office by voting. 1000

fear(n: fear pl fears) A feeling of being scared or worried about something dangerous or unpleasant that could happen. Unable to walk the streets without fear of being robbed. Employees expressed fears that the company would go out of business.
(n: fear, noncount) A feeling of respect and wonder for something very powerful. Fear of God. 2000

heaven(n: heaven, singular) In some religions, the place where God or the gods live, and where good people go when they die. Also known as 'Paradise'. 2000
(n: heavens) Used informally to make a statement or question more forceful or to express surprise, etc. Good heavens! Have you won the lottery again?; Heaven's above, I haven't seen you in years.

lamb(n: lamb pl lambs) 1. A young sheep. The ewe [female sheep] has had three lambs 2. A lovable or gentle person, usually used to talk about a child. The poor lamb.
(n: lamb, noncount) The meat of a young sheep eaten as food. A roast leg of lamb. 3000

murder(n: murder pl murders) The crime of deliberately killing a person. 2000

pray(v: pray, prays, prayed, praying) 1. To speak to God or someone or something that has special powers in order to express thanks or ask for something. 2. To hope or wish very much for something to happen.
(n: prayer; pl prayers) The words spoken to God when you give thanks or ask for something. 2000

priest(n: priest pl priests) A man who leads people in the worship of a god or group of gods; a man who leads or performs religious ceremonies. 4000

(n: sake pl sakes) The benefit or interest of someone or something. Used in phrases with 'for' to say that something is done to help a particular person or thing (e.g. We must do it for the sake of our country).
(interj) Used in phrases with 'for' to express anger, annoyance, surprise, etc. (e.g. For God's sake! For goodness sake! For Heaven's sake! ) 2000

scream(v: scream, screams, screamed, screaming) 1. To suddenly cry out in a loud and high voice because of fear, pain, surprise, etc. 2. To say something in a loud and high voice because you are angry, afraid, etc. 3000

shadow(n: shadow pl shadows) A dark shape on the ground, a wall, etc. caused by an object blocking the light. 3000

spade(n: spade pl spades) A tool with a metal blade attached to a long handle, used for digging. (พลั่ว) 4000

swell(v: swell, swells, swelled, swelled or swollen, swelling) To make or become larger, greater or thicker. The insect-bite made her finger swell. (ทำให้บวม) 4000

tobacco(n: tobacco, noncount) [a plant that produces] Leaves which are dried and chewed or smoked in cigarettes, pipes, etc. (ยาสูบ)
(n: tobacconist pl tobacconists) A person who sells tobacco, cigarettes etc. (พ่อค้าขายผลิตภัณฑ์ประเภทยาสูบ) 4000

vote(v: vote, votes, voted, voting) To make an official choice for or against someone or something by casting a ballot, raising your hand, speaking your choice aloud, etc. The people will vote today to choose the new governor. (ลงคะแนน) 1000

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