Cloudstreet is a mystical hymn of each character’s journey to finding peace and redemption within their lives.
From separate tragedies, the Pickleses and the Lambs come to Cloudstreet seeking a fresh start. Winton’s exploration of a mystical journey to redemption is represented through the complex relationship between Fish and Quick Lamb. Their relationship is ridden with guilt, despair, a sense of mystical hope and a fervent desire for freedom, ideas that are widely important for the maintenance of human hope.Quick Lamb’s guilt becomes a driving force in his search for redemption.
From the outset of the novel, Quick Lamb ‘knows his brother Fish is smarter and better looking than him and that people love him more,’ highlighting the superior light Quick holds his brother in. Quick’s guilt becomes his defining feature, described through the metaphor ‘Quick stiffs up with guilt, with sadness,’ a manifestation of the blame he places on himself for the tragedy that has bereaved his family.The paradoxical nature of Fish’s life described through the antithesis of ‘He’s been alive and he’s been dead,’ comes to define not only Quick’s view of his brother but also his family’s, furthering Quick’s desire to repent for what he has done. Quick’s allegoric ‘gallery of the miserable,’ serves as a constant reminder for himself that ‘he is alive, he is lucky, he is still healthy, and his brother is not,’ a tri-colon reiterating the remorse he feels and establishing the irony of being ‘Quick Lamb the Survivor,’ when his brother is ‘just gone.
The guilt Quick holds over himself comes to define the agonising nature of his relationship with Fish, representing the power of self-blame in the universal search for approval and redemption. The sorrowful, yet loving relationship between Quick and Fish is a realistic representation of human relationships and the pain they often bring. Both Quick and Fish bring despair into their relationship, conveyed through the anguished tone Winton creates.The paradoxical description of Fish’s ‘stuckness in time and space’ where ‘you can only imagine and still fail to grab at how it must be’ emphasises the tortured tone.
When Fish ‘feels the death coming unstuck from him with a pain like his guts are being torn from him’ his longing to stay with the water becomes evident. Coming back to life is described through the simile of ‘the most awful sickfeeling in him like his flesh has turned to pus and his heart to shit. ’ Through Fish’s onging of death, Quick’s despair with life is emphasised through the metaphorical argot of ‘lonelysick wakefulness. ’ The despair etched into Quick and Fish’s relationship is mirrored in the personification of the house ‘twisting its joists, hugging inwards, sucking in air.
’ The agony Quick feels over his brother’s inability to grow up is reflected in his relationship with Fish, along with Fish’s despair for the water. The mirrored agony is the essence of the relationship, which can be closely understood by society’s desire for closure and peace.Mysticism in Cloudstreet becomes one of the key forces that drive each character’s search for meaning and self-acceptance. It is a beacon of hope represented through Fish’s awestruck perception of the water and the way this moulds his relationship with Quick.
Fish’s constant repetition of ‘the water, the water,’ emphasises the importance of meeting the water once again to resolve his metaphorical ‘stuckness… Not the way all the living are stuck in time and space.
.. but in another stuckness altogether. Quick’s understanding of his brother’s need for the water forms the basis of the mystical nature of their relationship because Quick grasps that there is some unexplained reason why ‘not all of Fish Lamb came back,’ after the tragedy that comes to define his family’s life.
When Quick and Fish row home from Fremantle the mysticism of their relationship is intensified, evoked by the tri-colon of sibilant alliteration ‘There’s stars and swirl and space down there and it’s not water anymore – it doesn’t even feel wet.The presence of another, fully developed Fish, evoked through the use of Fish as the narrator is another contributing factor in establishing mysticism as a primary element of each character’s journey of repenting. This creates a link between the novel and the wider world’s use of mysticism to find peace and redemption. Throughout the novel Winton draws comparisons between Quick and Fish Lamb to illustrate the importance of intense relationships in one’s search for finality and redemption in their lives.
The coming together of the Pickleses and the Lambs represents the end of each character’s journey to peace. The guilt, despair, mysticism and desire for freedom explored in Winton’s representation of the relationship between Quick and Fish gives the novel its intense beauty and textual integrity. The universal transcendence of these themes allows for multiple readings and interpretations, making Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet a contestant as a valued novel for many years to come.