Cloudstreet Prologue

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The prologue of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet transcends one family’s tragic loss into the realms of the metaphysical, commenting on his views of life and death. Readers can contrast these views to our more modern ideologies. Through the use of poetic language Winton adds a spiritual dimension to the lives of people living in a secular society. Through imagery he also offers a construction of Australian cultural identity. Using techniques like point of view, repetition, juxtaposition, symbolism, as well as tapping into Australian vernacular and language that appeals to the senses, he manages to convey these ideas to readers.

I think that the change of point of view is one of the more effective techniques Winton uses in this extract. From the beginning where he clearly uses an inclusive pronoun to describe the gathering, “Will you look at us” to the ending where the pronoun has switched to exclusive, “And you can’t help but worry for them…” This technique draws attention to the exclusion both of Fish, the reason this event took place, and of the reader. We are forced to the sidelines, watching the physical description of the families meld into a spiritual description of life and death.

This extract proposes ideas about living and dying that are quite opposite to our modern ideologies. Winton suggests that the world of the living is a closed, narrow one, material and “foetid.” This contrasts to his views on death which is portrayed as a dimension of freedom and “broad vaults and spaces” that “you can see it all” from. He makes this evident through emotive language that appeal to the senses. The olfactory** word “foetid” immediately gives the idea of living a negative connotation where “silver-skinned river” is presented with such a positive, beautiful image that even the suggestion of death feels beautiful.

In fact, Winton discusses water, not only in this extract, but throughout the whole novel in highly symbolic terms. I read, in the prologue, the...
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