Why Is Tim Winton’s Novel, Cloudstreet Worthy of Critical Study? Essay
Why Is Tim Winton’s Novel, Cloudstreet Worthy of Critical Study?
Tim Winton’s iconic Australian novel, Cloudstreet has been highly regarded by audiences as a text of great value. Its resilience is a direct consequence of its ability to appeal to readers regardless of personal context. This is because Cloudstreet explores universal values relevant to modern society. By appreciating and developing a deeper understanding of Winton’s promotion of spiritual wholeness and quintessential Australian setting, it is possible to reflect back on that novel as a symbolic representation of personal identity. Published in 1991, this epic saga follows the lives of two contrasting families, the Lambs and the Pickles, over the decades of 1940-1960. Despite the large time aperture, the text’s unity of values, artistry and strength as reflected in its intricate plot and convoluted albeit believable characters is axiomatic due to its textual integrity and enduring power.
Winton uses the “Shifty Shadow” as a reoccurring motif that relies heavily on the concept of spirituality. Most notably, the commonality of biblical allusions and metaphysical manifestations evolve the backbone of the novel. This central theme is a significant notion to Sam Pickles ever since he inherits it from his father and upbringing. This “erudition” satirises the ideology of conventional religion and represents a supernatural connection that exists in the daily hardships of life. He also calls it the “hairy hand of god”, metaphorically establishing its mystic and unfathomableness. Winton further reinforces this theme during significant events. However, Winton exploits the character’s naiveté, so it may largely go unnoticed, hence elaborating the dogma of the “Shifty Shadows”. This evocative use of language challenges the readers about the nature of humanity and its identity.
In complement to the “shifty shadows”, is the idea of displacement from a place of belonging. The setting isn’t just a place, it’s where the characters are attached to and destined to be. For most characters their domicile lies within Cloudstreet, but for Fish however, his place is the water and that fate was sealed ever since his incident. “Fish will remember. All his life and all his next life he’ll remember this dark, cool plunge…” Winton designates Fish, a child trapped and split between his dead, spiritual being and his living physical shell as the omniscient authorial voice of the text. Throughout the 20 years of the novel, Fish still longs for the river up until his final moments where he can “taste the muted glory of wholeness” as he finally reunites with himself.
Cloudstreet expertly reveals a world where the myth of egalitarianism is exposed and the true nature of the working class existence is portrayed in detail. This text can be read as an examination of cultural identity that stereotypes the hardships and rewards of a working Australian. A clear example of this is the very few pleasures experienced by both families preceding their unification with the birth of “Wax” Harry: snaring of unseasonal prawns, a win at the horses and celebratory fish and chips at the pier. This interpretation is furthered matured in virtue of the text’s use of usually crude in nature, Australian humour. “She could piss right into their awestruck faces while bellowing her war cry ‘Death to Pervs!’”. While Winton often uses the language as a source of amusement, he also reflects this loveable larrikin identity unique to Australia through the character Fish.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 7 January 2017
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