In this painting the boy sits in a minutely detailed sunlit landscape undertaking an everyday task. The scene typifies the ‘truth to nature’ in Pre-Raphaelite art as advocated by John Ruskin, whose writings deeply impressed Brett. The landscape shows Box Hill near Dorking, Surrey; the stones are flints, and the plants, all botanically identifiable, tell us that Brett was painting in August or September. Plants, trees, rock formations and the effect of light on both the foreground and the distant panorama, are minutely described with scientific accuracy. Breaking stones for use in mending roads was a lowly, unskilled job often given to ‘paupers’. Brett may have had a symbolic meaning in mind: the bullfinch is a traditional symbol of the soul, and the withered tree with its single leafy branch may be intended to represent the triumph of the boy’s spirit over his menial physical labour.