Cloudstreet Essay, Research Paper
Besides providing an interesting story line, texts may portray attitudes and values connected with many aspects of the society in which they were written or represent. This is the case in the novel, Cloudstreet, in which values and attitudes of Australian life are presented in the story of two families sharing one house. The author, Tim Winton, may have directed these attitudes and values at the Australian society to provide the people involved within, an understanding of themselves and their culture, and also make an attempt at pushing his own interpretation of them.
In Cloudstreet, Winton has effectively used the role of the woman and the man to express more modern attitudes and values of Australian life. Lester and Oriel Lamb are prime examples of this. Being the man of the house (or half of the house), it is usually expected that Lester go out and work hard for his money, to come home to a wife who supports him and looks after the house and kids. But this is not the role he plays in Cloudstreet, in fact the complete opposite. Lester is portrayed as a sensitive man who cooks and cleans regularly, helping out with many of the household chores. He never seems to have a quarrel with Oriel, his wife, having most of the control over the household, or him having to pull his own weight. In fact, it is Lester who seems to be the mother of the house, looking after the children, especially Fish, and working hard to make ice-cream, pies and other treats for their shop in the front room. Oriel is the compliment of Lester, as she has all the qualities you would expect to find in a man, she is strong, independent and determined, working hard to improve the family business. This is clearly noticeable when she eventually succeeds in putting another small goods store out of business, located on the main road. As it can be seen, Winton has effectively taken a step away from the traditional stereotypes of, “the man and woman of the house,” and presented a current shifting in the values and attitudes of our modern society.
In society, the attitude often depicted towards Aboriginals is not one of good nature and has become more of a stereotype. In Cloudstreet, however, the attitude towards Aboriginals is the complete reversal of this bad stereotype, possibly a message from Winton. The Aboriginal in Cloudstreet, referred to as “The Black Man,” is conveyed as a guide or guardian angel to both families occupying the house. The one he appears to most of all is Quick, who first encounters The Black Man when he gives him a lift into Perth. On this occasion, The Black Man offers Quick wine and bread, similar to the story of Jesus feeding 5000. Soon after, Quick sees him again, “walking on water” at Margaret River, establishing in the mind of the reader that he is almost spirit like. Much later on in the book, Quick encounters The Black Man at his new house, the one he and Rose planned to live in. The Black Man says to Quick, ” This isn’t your home. Go home to your home mate,” referring to Cloudstreet, as if he was guiding him back to his family. This same sort of guidance is offered to Sam when he sees The Black Man on voting day. Sam ponders on selling the block the house is located on and The Black Man tells him not to break the place because “Places are strong, important.” From this, readers can see that Winton has portrayed this Aboriginal as an almost Christ like figure, guiding the two families and possibly tries to depict that not all Aboriginal’s come under the stereotype society has given them.
An attitude or value expressed often during the novel by Winton is the feeling of togetherness, which is displayed through the families living at Cloudstreet. When Rose and Quick discover their love on the river, they realise that they have lived under the same roof for nearly 18 years and have struggled their way through it, almost ignoring the family on the opposite side of the house. But once they had come together, they could now see that they belonged, to each other and the families at Cloudstreet. After their marriage, both families could see the same result, that they now belonged to each other, two families making one whole family, together. Quick notices this quality again after discovering the “Nedlands Monster’s” son drowned in the river, “There’s no them and us. There’s only us. Us, all together.” Sam Pickles also conveys this point when he begs Rose to come back home and look after her mother, “A man can stand losing his hair and his youth and his looks and his money – but what he can’t bear is losing his family.” This point of view, that Winton has expressed, almost states that people cannot go on in life alone as individuals, but together they will achieve.
Together, Australian’s who feel they belong to a family also decide to reside in one place, a place that they feel they belong to and has become a part of them. To the Pickle’s and Lamb’s, this place they belong to is the house, number one Cloudstreet. At first, Oriel and Rose seem to be oppressed by the house, as Oriel move’s out of the house into a tent in the backyard and Rose can’t wait to leave for something “clean and new.” Towards the end of the book this attitude of Rose and Oriel’s soon changes. Rose is the first to notice that she and Quick belong to the house, “We belong to it, Quick, and I want to stay.” Quick agrees with Rose as it has become a part of him as well, and Rose’s dream of owning their own home is instantly diminished, longing to return to Cloudstreet once more. At the very end of the book, readers learn that Oriel also returns to the house, “The little boxy woman and the big blowsy woman folded end to end till the tent was a parcel.” Being the very last event in the book, this scene acts as a symbol of working together and returning to the house, as Dolly and Oriel work together to remove the tent, a symbol of Oriel’s independence, to return to the house. It is therefore noticeable to readers that Winton aims to push the theme of togetherness and belonging to a locality through the families, who feel they belong to the house, number one Cloudstreet.
Therefore, readers can see that Tim Winton has used a number of common attitudes and values of the Australian culture in this novel, Cloudstreet. These give the readers an understanding of themselves and their society, as well as effectively conveying attitudes and values Winton wishes to portray to possibly send a message to these readers about how their society is constantly changing around them.