Nevil Shute Norway Foundation


Jack Dorman

By: Andy Burgess

Jack Dorman is an Australian sheep farmer who owns Leonora, a sheep station in the state of Victoria, 150 miles from Melbourne. He was a soldier in the First World War who married the daughter of an English admiral. At one point during the story he is referred to as:

" the Australian who drank port with the butler and never saluted anybody. "

Needless to say his wife's family did not approve of the marriage.

He is introduced on the day he has 'made good', receiving the rewards of years of hard work in the shape of a large 'wool cheque'. His analysis of the situation demonstrates Shute's understanding of the ways of business. Most of the money will go in tax, but farm expenses will be deducted so;

" He'd whoop up his expenses this year, my word he would ! He'd have to see his accountant to see what he could get away with. "

Throughout the story Dorman is presented as solid, reliable, competent and down to earth. He has a dry sense of humour, when asked how many sheep he has he replies:

" 'Three thousand five hundred and sixty, unless someone's been along and pinched some of 'em.' "

Almost predictably he and his wife, Jane, struggle to decide what to spend the money on after years of financial austerity. He is keen to treat his wife to some luxury, but is silently appalled when she decides she wants a picture. Whilst surveying possibilities we are told he is:

" deep in gloom at the impending waste of money. "

While in Melbourne they fail in their search so Jack buys her a Morris Minor car instead!

Dorman respects competence and strength in others. His 'niece' from England, Jennifer Morton, gets involved with an operation to remove a man's leg in the forest after an accident. Jack Dorman speaks to her afterwards:

" 'Good show, Jenny' he said with genuine respect. 'How are you feeling ? Get into the car and sit a bit.' "

The immigrant doctor, Carl Zlinter, who performs this and another operation is threatened with legal action after one of the men dies. Dorman presents the voice of common sense and practicality. He is disgusted with this display of petit bureaucracy:

" The fire that had burned in Lieutenant Dorman thirty years before flared up again. 'If they start anything against that chap I'll raise the bloody roof,' he said evenly. 'Pack of bloody wowsers. I've never heard of such a thing.' "

Dorman however is more than the archetypal Australian in the story. He is actually the driving force behind it. It is his money that enables Jennifer Morton to travel to Australia in the first place. He takes Jenny for a ride into the forest where they encounter Carl Zlinter who develops a relationship with Jennifer and becomes the other central character in the story. He lends them a 'utility' to travel together into the countryside where they are drawn together. Even when they are seeking information on a possible relative of Carl's it is Dorman's name that gets them accepted by a possible source:

" With contact established she became more friendly. " we are told.

Shute often used the theme that those with plenty of money can afford to be generous and will catalyse events that may lead to further wealth making or just simple good deeds. Notably this is displayed in A Town Like Alice and Ruined City. In The Far Country the theory is more subtle, but Dormans presence as a wealthy person (all earned honestly of course) is critical to the story. When Carl decides to requalify as a doctor (clearly indicated as generally beneficial) Dorman is prepared to finance him if necessary:

" 'If everything else was set, I wouldn't want to see the thing go crook because of the money.' " he tells the local doctor.

However Shute is not about to make things too easy for anyone, Dorman makes it clear he feels it would be better if Zlinter could fend for himself, which in the end of course he does. Zlinter works hard and is presented with the wherewithal to better himself.

The story however contains an irony. Whether this is deliberate is unclear, but given that the story emphasises that the Dorman's wealth is justified, it is probably unintentional. Jennifer's grandmother has drifted into poverty and writes to Jane Dorman that she could not afford a woollen vest. The Dormans are concerned and send the money that Jennifer eventually inherits. The Dormans, of course, have made their money from selling..wool.