‘Cloudstreet’ is a rich novel with multilayered of meanings embedded. Its cultural context is identifiably Australian, which may be a barrier for readers of different context. However, through its richness in value and universal themes, contemporary readers are able to cross cultural and contextual barriers.
One theme which permeates the whole novel is reconciling the past. Winton explores this in two levels, personal and national levels. Context is less important in interpretation for reconciliation on personal level. However, context will influences very much on national level.
The need for personal reconciliation can also be seen through Quick. Quick is driven by his guilt that he feels in causing Fish’s accident ’Fair dinkum Quick Lamb hates himself’, indeed it blights his life, shapes his personality and cast a misery shadow in his life. ‘He knows it should have been him, not Fish.’ Quick traps himself in ‘the gallery of the miserable’, posting his wall with scenes which constantly remind himself of misery around the world. His misery radar grows to a degree that he yearns for freedom and escape; he has to leave the stifling environment to heal himself. His wondrous journey with spiritual occurrences leads him to gain a better understanding of himself, thus acceptance of the past. One of the spiritual phenomenons occurs is when Quick lies half conscious on the ground, Fish appears rowing a box across the field of wheat, it is then Quick makes a conscious decision that he wants to live. Such personal examination of the pain of the past is not bound by context. The fundamental humanity explores in the novel allows readers to respond to the shared emotional experiences. Winton uses Quick to comment on Australia’s past and the need for acceptance of it before change can be wrought. Quick’s naivety joins the police force as it’s a tangible way ‘to fight evil’ is stripped away when he recognises the sheer ordinariness of the Nedlands monster. ‘It’s not us and...