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Analysis of the Ways in Which Literary Devices Create Shades of Meaning Using the Example of Tim Winton's Story 'Cloudstreet'

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Shades of meaning can refer to the subtleties and degrees of meaning that can be developed in a text. Australian novelist Tim Winton’s story, ‘Cloudstreet’, does not simply explore love, family, spirituality or human value, it addresses deeper concepts with graduations of meaning that develop over the course of the text, and are unique to each reader. Winton utilizes an array of literary strategies to manipulate the readers to grow alongside his characters, the story, and the ideas imbued in both.

A concept that runs strongly throughout ‘Cloudstreet’, is the importance of family. Presented throughout the text by the ‘guardian angel’ figure of the ‘blackfella’, who reminds Sam that, “you shouldn’t break a place, places are strong, important…too many places busted”. This sentiment is echoed by a series of plot events that grow the central characters of the text, bringing them closer together in the face of all odds. The remarkable resilience of family is first demonstrated by the generosity of Joel. A relative of the Pickles, he allows them to live in his hotel for free after Sam’s accident, campaigns to get Sam out of his rut, and eventually leaves them the house on Cloudstreet and £2000 pounds after his death. Joel, despite being only a cousin, understands the close bonds of family, a sense of unconditional love and acceptance. This is this message that Winton looks to promote in the text. As the text progresses, so does the complexity and shades within the idea. As Perth grows into a city, and each member of the two families goes through their individual trials and tribulations the families grow apart. Oriel moves into the tent, Quick and Ted leave, Rose grows anorexic and Dolly drinks herself to the ground. Through this loss of family Winton is presenting his perception of the erosion of family values in the real world. As Quick and Rose move to their “new house…in a new suburb… in a new street”, they are divided from their family. This represents Winton’s critique of the disappearance of communal life with the growth of suburban sprawl. Here the text comments most strongly on the importance of ‘home’, and family, with the Blackfella appearing once again to guide Quick, telling him, “You’ve got to go home Quick. Go there”. The text begins with a representation of family values, the generosity of Joel, and the tragic closeness that both families felt after their respective pain.

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Winton grows the message of family importance through a variety of symbols and characterization strategies. Throughout the novel, food is used as a representation of family. The two families come together over the final banquet in the Lambs basement, and the picnic by the river. The Lambs grow close through their grocery store, Quick and Lester and Quick and Oriel bond over fishing and Rose is as ‘food’ for Quick during their union in the library. When Rose is battling Dolly, and when she loses her baby and moves away from her family, she cannot stand the sight of food, of the nourishment and health that family represents. Characterization is also used to develop shades of meaning within the concepts of family values in that each character holds a different understanding of the importance of family and attributes different meaning to their family bonds. Rose, for most of Cloudstreet attributes little value to family. Having little connection to either Ted or Chub, and venomously hating her mother, Rose only attributed value to her father seen most clearly as she saves him from suicide, “I love you Dad, you can’t do it to me. You can’t”. Poignantly it is Sam who guides Rose to returning to her family, and subsequently her food. Pushing her to find forgiveness and understanding for Dolly allowed Rose to understand the importance of family, as she and Quick return soon after to their family home. No character values the importance of family values higher than Lester, stating, “If I did nothing else in me weak old life, Quick, I know I had a family and I enjoyed every bit of it”. Lester offsets his brusque wife and morose son as a whimsical and light-hearted cook. Like Sam, he connects with his children on an emotional level, engaging with them and valuing their love above all else, “I always wanted to be loved, that’s all”. Furthermore, Lester is quick to understand the bond between the two families, and understand that the Sam unconditional love should be applied, this is first seen as Lester hides Sam, and provides funds for him to pay his debts. Each character presenting the value of family in alternate ways as they grow provides a graduation of meaning. The reader develops their understanding of family alongside the characters, allowing each reader to understand the facets of family values that they personally relate to. This ensures the poignancy of Winton’s message of the deep, emotional, and spiritual importance of family across a broad spectrum of interpretations and understandings, just as the characters hold a range of understandings of the message they are promoting.

A further concept that is thoroughly explored throughout the text is the presence of another plane of existence. Addressed primarily through point of view and symbolism, the text once again allows for a broad spectrum of different shades of spirituality, overall, presenting the message that spirituality, in all its forms is an essential and basic element of life. Winton incorporates strong Christian links though the Jesus likenesses of the burning Guy Fawkes, and the guardian angel role of Fish and the ‘blackfella’, as well as the Lamb’s crisis of faith. However, a far broader spectrum of spirituality can be applied when looking at Fish’s description of his plane of existence as “the moon, sun and stars”. Spiritual Fish appears to Quick during his time in the wheat belt, and is able to actively guide him through his effective coming of age as a man, as well as recounting the story in the time it takes for him to drown. This represents a far less traditional form of spirituality. The story is narrated by spiritual Fish, and on occasion these present an omniscient and inherently mystical perspective of the story, only broadening the shades of meaning and interpretation that reside within the overall message of spiritual importance. Furthermore, darker aspects of the metaphysical such as the tortured spirits in the library, Quick’s ‘misery pictures’ that torment him at night, as well as the misery imbued in the house itself, constitute a further shade of meaning within the overall development of spirituality in the text. A final component of the ethereal in ‘Cloudstreet’ is the presence of, and the distinct respect towards, the Aboriginal cultural and spiritual heritage and their connection with the land. By representing the mystical, wise, guardian angel role as an indigenous man, who Winton has described as, “the past, the one carrying the memories everybody else has forgotten”, he is acknowledging with a certain reverence, the power and importance of Aboriginal spirituality. Effectively, Winton has developed many tendrils and small paths of spirituality that the reader may or may not identify within the story. Some are presented through symbols such as the water, which surrounds and reflects the spiritual upheavals in the character’s lives, others are presented through plot devices, such as the final picnic, bringing the families together through unconditional love and acceptance, and of course the point of view, which, being from the perspective of a spirit, imbues the story with a sense of spirituality to its core.

Effectively, within ‘Cloudstreet’ there exist comments on broad concepts and issues. However, within each of these there are subtleties. Through a range of literary techniques, Winton has managed to create multi-faceted messages that can be understood and interpreted across a broad spectrum, allowing for readers to each glean different shades of meaning from the epic novel.

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Analysis of the Ways in Which Literary Devices Create Shades of Meaning Using the Example of Tim Winton’s Story ‘Cloudstreet’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-the-ways-in-which-literary-devices-create-shades-of-meaning-using-the-example-of-tim-wintons-story-cloudstreet/
“Analysis of the Ways in Which Literary Devices Create Shades of Meaning Using the Example of Tim Winton’s Story ‘Cloudstreet’.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-the-ways-in-which-literary-devices-create-shades-of-meaning-using-the-example-of-tim-wintons-story-cloudstreet/
Analysis of the Ways in Which Literary Devices Create Shades of Meaning Using the Example of Tim Winton’s Story ‘Cloudstreet’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-the-ways-in-which-literary-devices-create-shades-of-meaning-using-the-example-of-tim-wintons-story-cloudstreet/> [Accessed 4 Mar. 2024].
Analysis of the Ways in Which Literary Devices Create Shades of Meaning Using the Example of Tim Winton’s Story ‘Cloudstreet’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2024 Mar 4]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-the-ways-in-which-literary-devices-create-shades-of-meaning-using-the-example-of-tim-wintons-story-cloudstreet/
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