Some of the most prominent themes in Tim Winton’s Minimum of Two is the weight of memories and experience of loss, as characters face the challenges of confronting their problems, both past and present. Through various short stories, Winton highlights that the majority of characters who confront their problems deal more successfully with them, and are able to move on with their lives. One story which embodies this message is ‘Laps’, where Queenie successfully confronts her past failures and losses and regains her confidence after returning to her hometown. Furthermore, throughout the Nilsam Suite, we witness Jerra’s growth as he struggles to deal with his past, only moving on after confronting and accepting his father’s death in ‘Gravity’. However, not all characters successfully deal with their problems; in ‘Minimum of Two’ Madigan attempts to confront the man who raped his wife, but with disastrous consequences. Although Winton explores both the positive and negative outcomes of confronting one’s problems, the anthology as a whole reveals that those who confront their problems deal more successfully with them.
The story ‘Laps’ encapsulates the importance of confronting past failures and losses. As a young adult, Queenie is rejected by her hometown community of Angelus, made into “a loser, an outcast”. From early on in the opening passage we are given an indication of past hurts, “a grave and a crusade and a well of bitterness”. Through this use of strong imagery and metaphor, Winton establishes character and highlights Queenie’s sense of disconnection from her past. Additionally, the use of interior monologue such as “all this time they’ve been growing, and I’ve gone to fat” gives us an indication that although time has passed and people have moved on with their lives, Queenie has remained stationary in her past, unable to move on from her rejection and loss. She is numb with the weight of the past, feeling “as though all this was a story she had read somewhere; it didn’t seem part of her life”. Queenie’s isolation is further reflected in the setting. Angelus is a physical representation of Queenie’s past, as she says “I want to confirm things….like this town being the past”. Additionally, water is used as a reoccurring symbol; the ocean, once a place of happy childhood memories, is now a place of exile and defeat. The metaphoric description of the “steel surface of the harbour” is an example of pathetic fallacy, reflecting Queenie’s hardness, her sense of rejection and defeat as an outsider. Furthermore, juxtaposition in setting is used to contrast the urban – representing the present, new life of “softness” – with her prior life in the countryside – a symbol of “hardness” and her past loss and defeat.
Queenie is aware that she has not moved on from her past, “The hurt of seven years before had healed them together in a way they had not expected…she had been numb for longer than she could remember”. She confronts her husband, suggesting they return to Angelus for a weekend, saying “places shouldn't frighten us anymore….a place can’t screw you forever”. We can see that Queenie has come to the realisation that in order the move forward she must take a step back into her past. As Queenie and her young family approach Angelus, the town is described as a “new galaxy”, reflecting change and as well as Queenie’s sense of foreboding and anticipation. As they enter the town, the family is dumbfounded by how much it has changed – “Angelus had learned to live off its dying…it was a town looking bright faced into the future”. The notion of the town and community having moved on in time is a stark contrast to Queenie’s step back into her past. As they return to Angelus, Winton begins to give us snippets of information - similar to flashbacks – of her past. The revelation of Queenie’s loss and defeat to the reader is parallel to Queenie’s confrontation with her past. As the family move through the town, visiting places from...
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