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:’
Most of the book is written by a third person so we get to experience life from a variety of perspectives.
Images, Symbols, Archetypes #
In Cloudstreet, the house acts as a metaphor for white Australia, and the two families, the Lambs and the Pickles, must learn from the spirituality of the land they live in and its original Aboriginal inhabitants.
The House on Cloudstreet was a big, sad two storey affair in a garden full of fruit trees. The windows were long buckling sashed things with scroll work under the sills. page 39
I reckon it’s a frigging and House of cards, I do, said Ted. The old girl’s the wild card and the old man’s the bloody joker. Page 41
Number one is an enormous flaking mansion with eyes in years and a look of godless opulence about it even now. page 47
The house has a history; a former boarding house it was used by a stern house mother to train ‘stolen generation’ girls for housekeeping. One of them was so depressed she killed herself in what is now the Library.
Her spirit haunts the room until Quick and Rose convert it into their room and open it up with a large window to let the light in and the spirit out.
Fish reckons the house is sad and talks to him.
Sam wants to sell it after twenty years and gamble the money but decides against it and so the house remains a symbol of the joining of two families.
It’s going to be sound like a counter lunch-Lamb and Pickles page 49
Winton comments about the type of food the families eat indicating the traditional British influences that persist.
When Tony Raven takes Rose out for dinner, she has never eaten “spaghetti”. (287),
The celebratory meal at the end of the book includes:
Out came roast lamb, cauliflower cheese, mint sauce, a tray of roast potatoes, parsnips, onions, pumpkins, cabbage, slabs of butter, hot white bread and Keen’s Mustard. There was chicken stuffed with leeks, cold ham, beetroot, and a jug of lemonade the size of an artillery shell. (408)
The Pickles live on a diet of sausages or lamb chops and veggies while the Lambs prepare more elaborate meals.
The River - Water
The novel’s epigraph:
Shall we gather at the river
Where bright angel-feet have trod…
Water plays a dominant role in the novel, especially The Swan River. Almost all the important events take place on or near water; Sam loses his hand, Fish drowns, Quick become sick, Fish and Quick row the boat from Fremantle to Perth, Rose and Quick decide to get married, most of the picnics….