Cloudstreet paragraphs on characters/themes

“The characters in Cloudstreet are all connected by their search for meaning.” Discuss.

1. To what extent did the two families overcome their differences” or something along those lines…

2. Winton’s Cloudstreet explores the human desire to find meaning in life. to what extent do you agree

In Cloudstreet, the lives of the Fish and Quick families intertwine as they all struggle to survive with their different problems.  The family members are all haunted by a sense of tragedy which casts a long shadow over their new dilapidated home. Sam and Dolly struggle to keep the family together after the accident and whilst Sam is guided by the “shifty shadow of luck”, Dolly’s luck seems to have evaporated while Rose, plagued by the burden of sadness, looks for happiness in other places.  Likewise the near drowning of Fish also makes Oriel and Lesther reevaluate their purpose, goals and dreams in life. It tests their strength, and at times they are challenged by Fish’s ability to “see” things clearly from a fresh and innocent perspective. Quick’s eventual journey and relationship with the black man are also connected with his search.

For many of the characters, life seems to be reduced to a question of luck, which consists of good and bad fortune in equal measure. Sam is guided and controlled by what he sees as the “shifty shadow of luck” which fluctuates throughout his life. This “shifty shadow” also becomes a substitute religion for Sam as he seeks to find a sense of purpose in a hostile and challenging world.  He has cycles of good luck followed by a string of bad luck. Winton depicts him as a victim of unpredictable circumstances of life;. The idea of a man’s life as being controlled by luck is passed down to Sam from his father and he often seeks to escape his fate; he tempts fate and is often drawing and defying chance as he searches for a meaning in life. Sam’s obsession with gambling is symbolic of his constant desire to tempt fate.  From the outset, the house is also bequeathed to the family as a consequence of luck. Joel won a fortune thanks to the horse, Eurythmic, and the house is purchased from the winnings. Sam’s accident (the loss of his hand) is typical of the bad luck that often befalls him, often because he does not heed the signs of the “shifty shadow”.    At times he seeks to escape a string of bad luck and run away from his problems; at other times he is toying with fate, daring and defying chance as he searches for a meaning. Eventually, his preoccupation with luck and his ability to show compassion and forgiveness helps him find peace and establish a sense of quiet dignity. For example,  Sam constantly urges Rose to show some compassion to Dolly; respect the house; and even the two women at one rare moment “wept together on the sagging bed” (362)

Contrastingly, the Lambs are evangelical, traditional god-fearing people which brings them together through their tough times as they learn to rely on family and cope with tragedy through the strength of their Christian values.  Oriel has a sign from God; Fish is drowning in the net, exacerbated by the clumsy attempts of Quick and Lester to save him.   Oriel is determined to realise good through the power of her will and her positive thinking. “I’m not standin for the bad; we make good. We make war on the bad and don’t surrender.” (234 Lester realises she is a “hard woman to please” ;  Oriel is strong, trustworthy and dependable.  As a god-fearing Christian, she believes “love is  God’s law . Oriel is trying to keep strong, “keep strong Mum, keep the steel”, how “I missed you all my life”. (403). It was sad “like this house”.  Oriel hopes through the force of her determination that she might find a cure for Fish and drives him to a range of counsellors. However, Fish forces her to confront the limitations of her willpower.   Likewise, Oriel also believes it is good “to be tenants. It reminds you of your own true position in the world”. A house should be a “privilege, not a possession.” 416 and it is from this position of subservience that Oriel derives her most important insights.

Alternatively, Lester struggles as a man to think about how he stacks up against the stronger women in his life and he often has dreams and thoughts about “falling short” of not “measurin up”  307.  He was a cook in the cavalry at Gallipoli. The strange thought, for Quick of having a conversation with the father who appears “equal”.  Oriel is in the tent because she has “ghosts of her own” 307 Lester says Oriel is fighting for all the answers.  Lester wants to be liked. He wants to be  “hero”.  307 And wanted to be “loved by God” 307 Lester believes that family is everything. “Take away the family and that’s it, there’s no point.” 308. Quick believes the family has always been odd; idiosyncratic; ‘they lived like some newspaper cartoon  hokels, bumpkins, fruitcakes in their passed down mended up clothes, ordered like an army floorshow”. There was love, and music and dancing. (308)

In his turn, Quick says the “water makes him happy”. 308 And he just wants to be “a good man”.  Q is often working the nets; gives him enjoyment; but he knew it was a “postponement of something” 309.    He exploits Dolly and then seeks to make amends by helping Sam.

Winton constructs the tent as a symbol of Oriel’s desire to escape and apply the strength of her will to overcome the family’s problems. In the tent, there is just fabric between her and death, “fabric and strength of character”. 375 If the house reminds her of her fear, she knows that “to go inside would break her will”. For 19 years, she fights against joining them, as an indication of her inability to forgive and forget. She worries that she “long enough to belong?”. She almost feels as if it has got worse lately. 375 this “ill-feeling coming from the place”.   After Fish’s death, Oriel finally moves back into the house because it only now that she can cope with her loss, her failure, her guilt, and her limitations.   The “continuing sound of middle C” is one of the reasons why Oriel moves into her tent. This note is the basis for all harmonic chords, and the tent represents dissonance as well as her separateness.  Oriel sits in her tent at night, which has “ghosts of her own”, reading the Bible by lamp and does not fully emerge until after Fish’s death when she can make her own peace.

Fish, who only survives his tragedy in a diminished state, “(not all of Fish Lamb had come back”) achieves meaning in life through his naïve, childish and intuitive world view.  “All his life and all his next life he’ll remember this dark, cool plunge where soul and light and shape are gone”  (27) This view also connects many of the characters together in mysterious ways as they search for meaning in unexpected places and in unpredictable ways. For example, his  tragedy underpins Oriel’s search for meaning as she tries to cope with the ghosts of the past; he does not “see” her: Rose also connects with Fish through moments of great simplicity.

EVERY ESSAY – PARAGRAPH Quick’s and Rose’s return home and the birth of their baby functions as a symbol of the community spirit that endures in the rambling dilapidated house that connects each of them in both positive and destructive ways. Rose needs to return to Cloudstreet to overcome her anorexia and the fact that she is literally and metaphorically withdrawing. Winton suggests that it is only through the community that many of them are able to overcome their separate and individual problems and their  gloominess.   In this regard, Winton impresses upon readers the importance of a plural world view: one that includes different ways of looking at the world which enrich each of the protagonists and help them endure the various mysteries that confound them and the luck that pursues them.  As the blackman warns, “never break a place”. It is important to build not destroy communities, cherish not dissolve families. This overriding sense of community, is to Winton, the most fundamental and deepest meaning that any of the characters can wrest from life.  Fish’s death becomes a release for Oriel who finally returns to the house. The return home also enables Quick to overcome his nightmares about the rapist which is resolved after their return. Sam has the feeling that it is not “good luck” to sell what he has been given. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” 413   There is much joviality that can be heard “all down the street” ; the singing; “those mad buggers from Cloudstreet, sounding like a footy match”. 418   Rose realises that she has spent her life trying to escape the place for so long, and now she finds herself “living back in the thick of it” 382. The old man would say it’s the ‘shifty shadow’, but she says it is “their decision”.  She feels a lot safer.  (they catch the murderer 386)  (The Nedland’s monster got the hangman’s promise (400) and the “place stank of happiness” (400.) Even Sam  is “hardpressed to feel unlucky” (399)

Finally, Winton suggests that there is no one way of finding meaning, but the house comes to represent a variety of ways of living. What matters, he suggests, is that the individuals recognise their role they play in each one’s lives and that meaning can be gained from sharing and caring for one another. Although the image of the house begins as a dark, threatening entity, it becomes a symbol of the harmony created by the union of two families. As they all leave their mark on the house and after fish’s death, the two families finally lay their ghosts to rest and can look to the future with confidence and a purpose.

WHILE THE CHARACTERS APPEAR TO BE ADRIFT, THE NOVEL REINFORCES A TRADITIONAL VIEW OF THE FAMILY. DO YOU AGREE?

In Cloudstreet, many of the characters are adrift because they appear to lack a purpose in life or are struggling with their circumstances. Some are also struggling to come to terms with traumatic experiences and their past.  After Fish’s death, both Oriel and Lester suffer in different ways and find it hard to live as a family. The spirit of Fish separates them. Likewise, Dolly and Sam conflict over their bad luck in life and drift apart. However, eventually the characters realise that despite their problems in life and their many flaws, life is much more bearable if they live together. In many ways, Winton affirms family life and many characters find in their families the strength to endure.

Initially, Cloudstreet becomes the last resort for two families who are struggling with a string of bad luck. It reflects the fact that many of the family members are struggling to come to terms with their life. “This morning Cloudstreet looks like a scabby old steamer resting at her moorings in the quiet time before the seas quicken and unsettle her.” (227)  Rose walks through the house: it was big enough for 20 people and it “unnerved” her. (36)  Although Uncle Joel’s gift, thanks to the horse Eutythmic she found it glum, but she “understood that she had to love this place too” because they had nothing else. (37)  Not only is Rose adrift, but her luckless father who constantly loses his money on the horses, and thanks to the shifting shadow struggles to deal with life after his accident. And Dolly, also struggles despite the stream of men who court her, “but nothing ever turns out like you expect. Like how your father ends up not being your father, and all.” 78  Rose tells the father that she remembers the time he was on the bathroom and just about to “slit your throat. She drove you that far.” (351) She is not ready to forgive and forget; Dolly has caused her too much pain. (difficulty eating; the hurt is raw; 351. Sam echoes Lester; once the family walks out on you and you lose the family, there is nothing much left. “a man’s sposed to have that at least to look forward to.” 352

Likewise, the god-fearing Lambs struggle to come to terms with Fish’s accident and they bring their grief to the troubled house. Their first impression is that it “looks flamin’ haunted” (45) As a god-fearing Christian, she believes “love is  God’s law . Lester feels a sort of “homesickness” coming over him at the river (402) Oriel is trying to keep strong, “keep strong Mum, keep the steel”, how “I missed you all my life”. (403). Lester wonders if they really belong there; or if they are just “out of our depth, out of our country”.  But Oriel believes that they don’t belong anywhere. It was in my head, what I believed. That’s where I belonged, that was my country. That was the final line of defence in the war” (235)    Oriel hopes through the force of her determination that she might find a cure for Fish and drives him to a range of counsellors and … However, Fish forces her to confront the limitations of her willpower.

Lester believes that family is everything. “Take away the family and that’s it, there’s no point.” 308. Quick believes the family has always been odd; idiosyncratic; ‘they lived like some newspaper cartoon  hokels, bumpkins, fruitcakes in their passed down mended up clothes, ordered like an army floorshow”. Most importantly, there was love, and music and dancing. (308) – “even in the miserable times after Fish” And he just wants to be “a good man”.   After Fish’s death, Oriel packs up her tent and reaffirms the importance of family. In the tent, there is just fabric between her and death, “fabric and strength of character”. 375 For 19 years, she fights against joining them, as an indication of her inability to forgive and forget. She worries that she “long enough to belong?”. After Fish’s death, Oriel finally moves back into the house because it only now that she can cope with her loss, her failure, her guilt, and her limitations.  The death becomes a welcome release and she embraces again the family life that means so much to her.

Quick’s and Rose’s return home and the birth of their baby functions as a symbol of the community spirit that endures in the rambling dilapidated house that connects each of them in both positive and destructive ways. Winton suggests that Rose needs to return to Cloudstreet to overcome her anorexia and the fact that she is literally and metaphorically withdrawing. Winton suggests that it is only through the community that many of them are able to overcome their separate and individual problems and their  gloominess.   In this regard, Winton impresses upon readers the importance of a plural world view: one that includes different ways of looking at the world which enrich each of the protagonists and help them endure the various mysteries that confound them and the luck that pursues them.  As the blackman warns, “never break a place”. It is important to build not destroy communities, cherish not dissolve families. This overriding sense of community, is to Winton, the most fundamental and deepest meaning that any of the characters can gain from life.   Fish’s death becomes a release for Oriel who finally returns to the house.

Both Sam and Quick urge Rose to show Dolly some compassion even though she wants to see herself as her own separate, distinct person. She says, “I’m my own person”.  Sam tells her, “You’re one of us now and I couldn’t bear to lose you. Quick’s hurtin’.  Both Quick and rose realise they must return. It enables Quick to overcome his nightmares about the rapist which is resolved after their return. Sam has the feeling that it is not “good luck” to sell what he has been given. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” 413   There is much joviality that can be heard “all down the street” ; the singing; “those mad buggers from Cloudstreet, sounding like a footy match”. 418   Rose realises that she has spent her life trying to escape the place for so long, and now she finds herself “living back in the thick of it” 382. The old man would say it’s the ‘shifty shadow’, but she says it is “their decision”.  She feels a lot safer.  (they catch the murderer 386)  (The Nedland’s monster got the hangman’s promise (400) and the “place stank of happiness” (400.) Even Sam  is “hardpressed to feel unlucky” (399)

Winton shows that family life is not perfect but a close and supportive family can help the individuals find purpose and stability in their lives. Winton suggests that there is no one way of finding meaning, but the house shows two families who come together out of necessity. What matters, he suggests, is that the individuals recognise their role they play in each one’s lives and that meaning can be gained from sharing and caring for one another. The families realise that their dependency brings values. Although the image of the house begins as a dark, threatening entity, it becomes a symbol of the harmony created by the union of two families. As they all leave their mark on the house and after fish’s death, the two families finally lay their ghosts to rest and can look to the future with confidence and a purpose.

THINK ABOUT THE ENDING AND THE RESOLUTION OF KEY THEMES

END. “ never break a place”… build the community – do not destroy the community.

End: reinforces the sense of community which Winton presents as the most fundamental and deepest meaning that any of the characters can wrest from life.

Sam’s search for meaning through luck becomes more solid. He constantly urges Rose to show some compassion to Dolly; respect the house; and even the two women at one rare moment “wept together on the sagging bed” (362). Rose needs to return to Cloudstreet to overcome her anorexia and the fact that she is literally and metaphorically withdrawing. Winton suggests that it is only through the community that many of them are able to overcome their separate and individual problems/ gloominess.

Fish’s death becomes a release for Oriel who finally returns to the house .

Plurality; acceptance and hope: Quick’s and Rose’s return home and the birth of the baby symbolise the community spirit reflected in the rambling dilapidated house that connects each of them in both positive and destructive ways: acceptance of plurality of meanings; enrichment through multiple ways of looking at the world; always mysteries that confound them.

The return home (out of fear of the rapist/murderer) haunting Perth. Quick is having nightmares about the pictures on the wall of the library – “that steely old hag and the darkeyed girl going at it, mute and angry like the pictures on his wall in his childhood sleep” (374

 

Their 20 years has expired, but Sam does not want to sell the place.  He believes they could make money from selling; they could build a new place from scratch.  He has the feeling that it is not “good luck” to sell what he has been given. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. 413  *Reminisce about Eurythmic.

Oriel also believes it is good “to be tenants. It reminds you of your own true position in the world”. A house should be a “privilege, not a possession.” 416  they do not want to move because “we’re half way to belong here”. The blood place has got to us.” Quick said it was bad luck to sell, and his language reminds Oriel of the other side. “remember which side of the corridor you’re on. The language.”

Rose starts working in the shop with Oriel:  but they were wary of each other.  Oriel takes command of a place just “by entering”.  “Her kindness was scalding; her protection acidic”. And rose thinks it is her fault; Oriel is so strong and dependable; so trustworthy (397) Elaine pays the ultimate compliment when she compares Rose to Oriel, “you’re a ringer, Rose” (397)

There is much joviality that can be heard “all down the street” ; the singing; “those mad buggers from Cloudstreet, sounding like a footy match”. 418

Quick and Rose are back in the big house; the big room in ‘no man’s land”. 381. The piano was still in the corner and she had the old desk that the old man had bought her with winnings; “Deep in, when she let herself think it, she was glad to be back, even thought it was this place. She felt like a “surrender to her and she’d made up her mind a long time ago to neither surrender nor go back” (382. She has spent her life trying to escape the place for so long, and now she finds herself “living back in the thick of it” 382. The old man would say it’s the ‘shifty shadow’, but she says it is “their decision”.  She feels a lot safer.  (they catch the murderer 386)  (The Nedland’s monster got the hangman’s promise (400) and the “place stank of happiness” (400.) Even Sam  is “hardpressed to feel unlucky” (399)

The Baby’s birth: the birth seems to release the spirits of the place; (389) ; “the spirits on the wall are fading, fading, finally being forced on their way to oblivion.”  “the room sighs, the house breathes its first painless breath in half a century and outside the pig is going at it balls to the wall” 390

Quick and Rose venture out in the big wide countryside and watch the southern cross and have inspirations about their place in the world. “How small our dreams are”. 421  They realise that they “belong to the place” and that they would prefer to stay in Cloudstreet.  “they’ve built something else from just being there” (425).   Rose realises she likes the crowd and the noise; she likes the idea of being where they grew up; where they had their childhood; “it’s like getting another childhood, another go at things.”  She feels as if she is right in the middle of the village. “I have these feelings. “ She doesn’t like being on her own; or independent. She realises that is when she “retires”.  I go “skinny and puke”. It’s a bloody tribe. “I want to battle it out” 425.  Quick and Rose return home, “wild as kids”. It is a fun home coming, full of laughter.

The black children follow Quick; and he sees that “moony light was coming off Fish himself” 426.

Fish’s death becomes a release for Oriel who finally returns to the house .

Plurality; acceptance and hope: Quick’s and Rose’s return home and the birth of the baby symbolise the community spirit reflected in the rambling dilapidated house that connects each of them in both positive and destructive ways: acceptance of plurality of meanings; enrichment through multiple ways of looking at the world; always mysteries that confound them.

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