Cloudstreet Essay, Research Paper
The novel Cloudstreet, written by Tim Winton, is a powerfulL, moving and epic tale of two separate dysfunctional families and the hardships of life they are put through. The families, the Lambs and the Pickles, go through different situations however, end up both moving to Subiaco to escape and start over. With number one Cloudstreet being both their residence for the next twenty years, the families learn to communicate with one another and overcome the evident separation of them, thus resulting in a uniting journey. Within the text, many different narrative techniques are found. These techniques include such things as multiple and shifting point of views, the episodic structure, diction, and punctuation. All these techniques are strongly evident in different segments, and hence, induce a certain reaction from the reader.
Cloudstreet can be viewed as Fish’s story, from the beginning of the prologue to the very last pages of the book. It is his journey of self discovery. In the beginning of the book, Fish is described as being ’smarter and better looking than him (Quick), and that people love him more… He’s always wisedicking around, talking too loud, being loveable.’(pg. 27). Fish’s accident takes place back at the Lamb’s old residence, in the country. ‘Quick and Fish and their father move through it (the water) like it’s a cloud, an idea, just a rumour of water, and when Fish goes down there isn’t a sound.’ (pg. 29). As Lester is startled from Oriel’s shout of alarm from the shore, he then drops the lamp into the water, thus would explain the delayed time period in which Fish could have been rescued. It is at this stage where the physical and omniscient Fish are separated. The physical Fish is then resurrected back to life by his mother, however, once brought back, appears to have had brain damage, leaving him a retard. He desires to see water and be with water again, so that he may once again be whole. The spiritual Fish is the intelligence of the story, the voice that narrates the story and becomes one with that of the river. Although appearing to be the most inarticulate character in the narrative is actually the one who is most articulate. He can be described as being a holy fool, one who seems to be out of touch with reality but who is actually the person with insights and understandings beyond immediate reality. Fish is transcendentally telling the story. The whole story could be considered one that flash backed through fish’s mind before death. He is a transcendental, highly omniscient figure. For the next twenty years, the physical Fish lives as if ’stuck somewhere…half in and half out.’ The narrator for Cloudstreet is the spiritual Fish. The most direct way in which an author reinforces the themes of a novel is through the use of the narrative techniques. However, his narration includes multiple points of view. These views can be separated into four views.
Firstly, there is the authorial voice. This voice is the spiritual Fish. This Fish addresses the physical Fish and has a much more intimate connection to the ‘other self’. This Fish is in second person point of view (uses ‘you’) ‘You can see that figure…looking into your face’(pg30).
Secondly, a third person omniscient exists. It is this Fish in which reveals thoughts of character which are often hidden from others. The preoccupation with characters past is foregrounded and it is through this point of view that readers are disclosed with the feelings of the physical Fish and other characters within the text. ‘Rose Pickles knew something bad was going to happen.’ (pg 7).
Within certain sections of the novel, the narrative point of view is in first person. ‘Can you see me Fish- see me close as a whisper…?’ (pg 420). This is also the spiritual Fish. With this narrator in first person, the emphasis of the separation of the physical and spiritual Fish becomes more evident towards readers. It is in first person narrative that readers are reminded of the longing to be made whole, to be fully integrated, and it is this longing which then drives Fish towards his last actions.
The last point of view found within Cloudstreet is third person objective. This view point is found towards the very last section of the novel. ‘Another woman stepped forward tottering a little…’ (pg 425). It is this narrative in which actions of the characters are emphasised rather than their thoughts. The theme of integration within the novel is achieved.
Within Cloudstreet, there is however one particular paragraph which shows the first and third person point of view combined. This paragraph can be found on page 30 which shows the near death experience of Fish. ‘Oh I remember, mesh against the face, the cage of down and up and the faint idea of light as the cold comes quicker now out of the tunnel… Fish feels death coming unstuck from him with a pain like his guts are being torn from him… And then he’s away. Away.’ (pg.30). It is within this scene that the separation of the physical and spiritual Fish takes place. The integration of the physical and spiritual Fish also takes place. ‘Fish goes out sighing… I’m a man for that long, I feel my manhood, I recognise myself whole and human, know my story for just that long… I’m Fish Lamb for those seconds it takes to die…’ (pg 423-4).
At certain times in the novel, the third person omniscient point of view becomes multi-voiced, that is, the inner voices of certain characters take over the narration. It is at these times when the character is able to give the reader an insight to their stream of consciousness. The different characters have different styles and discourse but can generally be described as being a free indirect style.
The structure of the book can be likened to a jig saw puzzle. Sections of the book are extrapolated from a chronological order and are then combined to create the structure. For example, the beginning of the novel is the last chapter of the book. The structure could also be described as being a complete circle (like the circle of life and death). The novel is separated into eleven chapters, with each chapter having a number of different sub headings found within The structure for time within the novel are all set in the present, with the exception of chapter three. This chapter goes back into time and then sets the background for number one Cloudstreet and tells readers of the houses distorted past with its residence. The headings in the chapters can be used to give the readers a hindsight of what is to be expected within that certain passage. For example, the passage on ‘Toby Raven’ is a detailed description of the character and the progression of his relationship with Rose.
The language found within Cloudstreet is that of the Australian vernacular. The omniscient Fish’s use of articulate language can be described as the integration of illusion and reality. This can be said for the title of the novel also. Cloud being a word associated with the fantasy world and street being a very rural and down to earth word. The unification of these words present the book as a link from the world of reality to fantasy and hence, the combination of them both. This combination can be found when Fish and Quick are on the river, making a journey that will bond them together forever, is described as being the pathway to heaven. The many layers of meaning, the deep symbolism of the river and life, the significance of words are all created within this simple use of diction. However, with the narrative point of view, the language and the tone all work together to strengthen the novels structure, and it’s resulting meaning. Throughout the entire novel, there is no use of quotation marks. This factor adds to integration of fantasy and reality, with the visions being blurred of the narrative and other characters.
Within Cloudstreet, another device which is used is symbolism. It plays upon the aesthetic sensibilities harboured by the text’s audience and provides insight and deeper understanding to the themes of the novel. Indeed, Cloudstreet itself, the river, which reinforces the themes of love, family, determination, and spirituality in the search for completeness, and religious symbolism, ‘the Lambs of God’, contribute to meaning and the author’s endorsement of love, family, determination, and spirituality in the search for completeness. The symbolism in Cloudstreet reinforces the themes of the novel. Cloudstreet itself, the river and religious symbolism contribute to meaning and provide insight and deeper understanding to the themes.
These factors of narrative techniques are all used at specific points in the novel. Winton does this intentionally to leave a certain ‘gap’ which allows readers to then take into account and perspective, their own personal experiences and relate them to the themes and issues evident within Cloudstreet. By doing this, provides the reader with a much more knowledgeable understanding and the text is then relevant to different time periods and has a wider range of audiences to relate to.
In conclusion, the narrative techniques found within Cloudstreet are all very important as they play a major role towards readers and their understanding of the novel. With the many different viewpoints, readers are given different perspectives and different levels of insights to the characters. These techniques have clearly made the integration of fantasy and reality within Cloudstreet evident and whilst working together, strengthen the structure and conveys its conviction.