Cloudstreet Characters: # We must remember that character creation is a construct; an artefact and central ones do not necessarily represent the author. Characters are either portrayed sympathetically or unsympathetically. The former are called protagonists, heroes or good guys while the latter are antagonists, villains or bad guys. Sometimes main characters are picaresque – likeable but harmless rogues, larrikins or scoundrels –“loveable rogues”. Martin Amis points out that over two millennia humans first told stories of Gods, then Kings, then Epic Heroes, then ordinary people , then anti-heroes, then villains, then demons and finally themselves.
Cloudstreet traces the fortunes and misfortunes of two rural families who move to the big smoke of Wartime Perth after different tragedies. Two disparate families, the Pickles from Geraldton, and the Lambs from Margaret River converge to share a large rambling house in downtown Perth. The Lambs of God are industrious, god fearing and prudent while the Pickles are laid back, improvident and loose in their morals. Chronic gambler and loser, Sam Pickles, lost one hand in a boating accident, while the vivacious favourite son in the Lamb family, named Fish, became retarded after nearly drowning.
Context and Background: # Cloudstreet was written during the 1980s over a period of about 18 months (1987-88) consisting of six months in Paris, six months in Ireland and six months on the Greek Island of Hydra under a travel scholarship, the Martin Bequest. Writing from overseas provides for a more detached yet nostalgic approach. Working titles included, The Dead Room and House of Cards. The novel is a sympathetic, nostalgic but realistic portrayal of an earlier Australia finding its identity and a personal etching of a man’s “warts and all” family origins; Tim Winton’s ancestors.
Evaluation: # Dymocks’ poll: A new resident of Perth commented “Cloudstreet” acted as a map and history of Perth with rich feisty characters and events unfolding down the road from my house Web Links: http://www.middlemiss.org/lit/authors/wintont/cloudstreet.html http://gorey.com.au/archives/170 Cloudstreet by Tim Winton is the best Australian novel I’ve read in several years. I preface that by saying I don’t read many Australian novels, having been disappointed in the past and wishing to “travel” through my reading.
Issues, Concerns, Themes, Values…. # Novels, as most works of art, are complex and multi-dimensional. They are not limited in meanings, concerns or themes rather often deal with wide ranging issues and are open to multiple interpretations. Many of the issues are also inter-related. Here are some: Religion and Spirituality # Winton says he is interested in “faith, without religiosity, that pompousness that comes with the Church….. I ‘m interested in the kind of people who want to understand the meaning of their lives.
Narrative Technique: # Will you look at us by the river! The perspectives in this novel are extremely complex and confusing. The Novel’s narrator shifts between a third person omniscient observer, to the disembodied first person participant, (the voice of Fish’s half that didn’t come back) who at times addresses us in the second person “you” and when the two halves of Fish talk to each other. You can see that figure teetering out over the water, looking into your face, and you can see the crowd up on the tree thick bank behind him finishing this momentous day off and getting ready to wonder where he is:’
Style and Language - Cloudstreet # In terms of voice, Australian writers have been influenced by Mark Twain’s use of “street language” – the local dialect. Henry Lawson gave us our first recording of Australian vernacular while Ray Lawler in Summer of the 17^(th) Doll captured the Australian cadences. Winton too is keen to record the distinctive Australian indigenous dialogue used by common ordinary people, sometimes restricted to the vocabulary of a brain damaged boy.