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Cultural Identity in "Cloudstreet"

Looks at the Australian culture and how it affects characterisation.
by

Shelley Turnbull

on 26 November 2012

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Transcript of Cultural Identity in "Cloudstreet"

Cultural Identity
in Cloudstreet by Whitney Rouse THE END
(bet you’re glad!) THE END
It's where both the families come from, where their memories are, especially for the parents.
It's associated with freedom, unlike the city and the claustrophobic feel of the house.
It's where Quick learns about the importance of family, as seen in the vision he has of Fish. Physical - The River Adults and Children
The relationship between Rose and Dolly typifies the rebellious teenage situation that underlines the generation gap syndrome established in the 1950s. Within Families

The Lamb family is an example of family pride- “they knew to treat others with a sense of respect and pity” (indirect quote), despite being poor, despite being the underdog, in fact there is the element of Australian pride and support of the underdog.
The Pickles represent the other end of the spectrum, where Rose is embarrassed of her mother’s frequent binges and inappropriate behaviour.
Everything comes to a nice neat ending when the family reunites “even some of the missing are here” (Fish) - the reader (me) can interpret this as indicating that Winton believes that families should stick together, and is supporting the working class ideal, and the traditional aboriginal values of family and sticking with one’s kin. Toby and Rose - working vs middle class
Toby is used to represent the middle class of Australia, presenting a very narrow minded idea of people falling into that category. He is shallow, selfish and resorts to a form of emotional abuse to further his own schemes, he writes practically pornographic drivel, all of these which enable the reader to construct an unlikable identity for the Australian middle class. Relationship between the families
Their initially divided nature i.e. the Lambs vs. the Pickles, the way the house looked like it had had a stroke and the division between the two sides can be interpreted as reflecting the tribal nature of Australia, being loyal to one’s kin- which is particularly relevant to Aboriginal Australians.
It also reflects a sense of pride in your own, despite all their flaws
also the division in Australia despite the assumption of their culture being a unified whole- many minority groups are excluded from the “Australian culture” (tribal division) Social
Includes the relationships represented between;
the two families
White people and aboriginals
Toby and Rose (working class and middle class)
Men and women
Women and women
Men and men
Children and adults
The dead and the living
Religious and non religious people- beliefs and attitudes represented by either sector
Family members
Citizens and the government/nation
It is Oriel’s retreat, it is where she goes when she can no longer deal with the chaos of her life, with no longer having a concrete faith, when she can no longer handle the way Fish ignores her. She escapes to the tent to find herself, to rediscover a belief in something.
“who was she to argue with a living breathing house?” it was as if Oriel was pushed out of the house, she didn’t belong. A reader with knowledge of Australia’s past may perceive this as reflecting the colonisation of Australia and the trials the settlers faced.
It is symbolic of an army tent, Oriel is engaged in an emotional battle. (like the country)
reflects Australia’s repression of the past, trying to hide from the mistakes made- the stolen generation, the killings, the injustice to aboriginals (and some of the convicts too for that matter)- only when there is balance and harmony is the tent taken down, only when wrongs were righted (Fish’s suffering is ended, he is complete) could this be done, and only when the mistakes of Australia’s past are righted and admitted can there be true peace.
The mulberry stains which look like blood are symbolic of Oriel’s suffering, and the suffering of a nation
. Isolated city- like the families described. The Pickles have no other relations, and the Lambs are ostracized for their religious beliefs. When they move to the city both families seem to undergo self imposed isolation, they don’t really mingle with the city, except for Rose, it's as if they still belong in the country.
shares values in common with the rest of Australia, values “the great outdoors”, mateship etc. By Whitney Rouse Men and Men
-The men in the text are seen as more sensitive than usual, though this is naturalised, defying the idea that men have to be “tough”, though as Winton said “they are sentimental rather than emotional”.
- when Lester and Sam go to the track they bond, doing typically Australian male things - drinking, gambling and eating. Women and Women
The relationship between women is portrayed in the text sometimes as competitive, Rose competes with her mother and vice versa, Dolly feels resentful towards Oriel’s success- also exemplifying “tall poppy syndrome” which as an attitude perceived to be part of Australia’s culture. Dolly’s relationship with her “sister” was bitter, and when she found out she was her mother, it only hardened her opinion towards other women. Men and Women
Dolly’s promiscuity and the way she is described “Dolly Pickles was a damn good-looking woman.” – when reading from a feminist viewpoint reflects the idea that for a woman to be a “real woman” as she is later described, she must be sexually available and physically attractive. In her appearance Dolly embodies the 1950s view of woman hood, buxom and curvaceous.
Her emotional need for sex in order to feel love underlines the idea that women are emotional creatures, and that men are of action, as her numerous sexual partners seemed to find no relationship guiding their actions but instead pure physical impulse.
Dolly and Oriel are at opposite ends of the spectrum, both hard women, but holding different beliefs and values. Their strength and hardness of character only serves to reiterate the “proper” role of women, as it seems wrong that women should so dominate their male partners. Dolly doesn’t fulfil her role as a nurturing parent, and Rose hates her for it. Oriel is over-domineering and controlling, but is represented as unlikeable to the reader, being described as “boxy” and “hard”. The surreal nature with which the river is treated, the miraculous events with which it is associated, and the unity and clarity which it imparts with the characters, develops Australian cultural identity with regards to the indigenous Australian belief of nature being associated with spirituality. It is where characters go to renew themselves, i.e. Quick goes there after he has the truck accident in chapter 6, and once he returns home continues going fishing on it. What is Cultural identity?
It is the identity of a group or culture.
It remarks upon: place, race, gender, religious beliefs, history and ethnicity. Cultural Identity in
"Cloudstreet" Perth The Bush/Nature/Country It is essentially what one associates with a particular culture- the beliefs, values, attitudes, actions and pastimes etc. that are perceived to be at the core of a society, and that the majority of the people have in common.
It is not a unified whole however, some groups are marginalised and forgotten about when producing an idea of that culture. Appreciation of nature- esp. Aboriginals- where nature has links with spirituality and “the dreaming”, belonging to the land
Nationalism, mateship (post war), pride in the country
class divisions, majority working class, then a barrier between middleclass
generation gap
aboriginal culture valuing kinship/tribe/family more than white people, your kin determined who you were, how you acted, and everything you did you did with consideration for your tribe. Etc. It is equated with spirituality, as an element of nature. Reflects the aboriginal belief nature is sacred (the dreaming, ancestor spirits, once they made the world, became watering holes, trees, etc.)- important events occur here, miraculous events, such as Fish drowning and then being brought back to life, the fish leaping into Quick’s boat, the aboriginal man 'walking' on water. Also it is introduced as “the beautiful, beautiful river”[a hymn] Associated with typical Australian pastimes, like fishing, crabbing, prawning, and kids doing bombies of jetties, [chapter 1] It gives characters peace amidst the chaos of their lives It is where Rose truly gets to know Quick, and is therefore the source of unity for the two families. Characters bond here, Rose and Quick, Quick and Oriel, Quick and FIsh. It has a hold over Fish, his “other” is in the river- his other consciousness, the one that narrates the book. Fish is “hungry for the water” and desires to return to it to end his purgatory, to find completion. It is a giver of life (Trees, animals, birds), it is where the story starts, yet it takes part of Fish away, only to return it to him when he returns to the water. It grows and develops, skyscrapers are built etc. as the families grow up and also “fall apart” a bit, are separated and divided, so too does the innocent city lose its charm, the old character houses are knocked down to make way for the new bland suburbia. It loses its innocence- patriotism’s hold on the country- the system declines; people are less likely to be manipulated on the basis of national pride. being a smaller city makes it seem more naïve, innocent in a sense, it is like the families coming from the country to the city, they slowly become more aware as they grow and develop. Relationship between white and aboriginal The black man is referred to as a “black angel” and is associated with mysterious, biblical and surreal imagery, linking Aboriginals to nature and the spirit world as opposed to whites being more focused on materialism, the urban, and growing less family orientated. When Sam is unaware that blacks don’t have the vote, it underlines the marginalisation of Aboriginals in 1950s Australia, and the general unawareness of their marginilisation. the incident when the black man ran away from the house indicated a “master-servant” type of relationship between black and white, aborigines being poor sales people, being subservient to white people and being alienated from their own country, and also links them again to spirituality. Of course the reader must have some knowledge of Australian history to interpret the incident in this way. like the River it reflects aboriginal belief in nature’s link with spirituality, particularly in chapter 6 which focuses on Quick’s experiences, where he almost dies, where he sees Fish, and where he sees himself running, where he meets the aboriginal man- its where Quick essentially “sees the light” (when he started glowing) it is associated with a notable amount of biblical imagery, like the glowing face of Quick, linking faith and spirituality to nature. This underlines the importance placed on nature in Australian culture- especially to aboriginal people. A contemporary reader from the city may not infer this from the representation of the bush offered. His poor treatment of Rose results in the reader siding with her and the working class values which she represents as being a member of that cultural group. (honesty, down to earth, hard worker).
The contrast of Toby and Rose resists the popular cultural belief of other societies that your success is determined by your work ethic, and instead points to the fact that social circumstances determine your success in the narrow-minded financial/economical view of the word. Rose works hard and has talent, but as a result of her social circumstance (class and gender) is limited in her ability to “succeed” in the world, while Toby, despite his lack of talent, continues to be perceived by his peers as “cool”, and is still given the opportunity to “succeed”. When Oriel and Dolly finally embrace at the end they become softer, and when Oriel moves back into the house it seems all is right, now that they are real, softer women, and Oriel once more moves into the house to more properly fulfil her role as a wife.
Rose’s abandonment of her dreams of being independent, having a house, is naturalised, it is perfectly accepted that she should, as a weak little woman, be scared of the Nedland’s monster, more so than her male counterparts, that she should abandon work for a baby, and that she should return to her family and fulfil the role of the daughter she never got to be. Government/nation and citizens
Lester’s and Oriel’s involvement with the Anzac club is indicative of Australian’s having enormous faith in the country, Oriel even tries to replace religion with the nation- which fails. This is what Australia is supposedly all about, nationalism, mateship etc. This is seen in the frequent reference to the war and the pride people (G.M Clay) displayed in having fought for their country. This can create a wistfulness in the reader for a more wholesome, innocent time, when national pride ran high.
However, Oriel also says something that indicates this naïve and innocent faith in the nation was waning, “I read the newspapers, they’re lying to us… they’ll send them off to fight any old war…” (somewhat indirect quote) The Tent The House
The House represents a lot of Australian culture
its history- aboriginal girls, stolen generation
the way the families don’t belong until there is a balance and mistakes (Fish) are righted.
It represents the old Australia before the urbanisation and development took place. The Dead and the Living
The naturalisation of the surreal in the text makes the communication between the spiritual world seem commonplace, conveying an image of Australia, particularly the Aboriginal sector, as being mysterious and connected with the spirit world. Fish is the link between these two worlds. Religion
- Coming from England or Ireland, Catholicism and Protestantism were ingrained into Australian culture (see the national anthem) though some individuals did not conform to these views of religion, as is represented by the Pickles, whose god is Lady Luck. The Lambs represent the sector of Australians struggling with what was once second nature to them, but now are straining to have faith in. (i.e. after tragedy like Fish or the War). What makes up Australia’s cultural identity?
(1940s-1960s)
> ”White Australia” – Aboriginal assimilation, no aboriginal citizenship till 1967, Stolen Generation
>Hardworking mentality, majority were working class citizens, “stickability”,...
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