Commission by Tim Winton

In Commission by Tim Winton we have the theme of mortality, connection, shame, letting go, acceptance, alcoholism, change, self-pity and trust. Taken from his The Turning collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed man and from the beginning of the story the reader realizes that Winton may be exploring the theme of mortality. The narrator’s mother is dying and it is her wish to see her estranged husband, father of the narrator, again. This may be important as it suggests that the narrator’s mother longs to make a connection with the narrator’s father again. Even it is to tie up loose ends. It may also be significant that the narrator feels shame when it comes to meeting his father. It is as though his father reminds him of the past, a past that the narrator is unable to let go of.

It is also interesting that Bob is called Honest Bob by the locals and that he is trustworthy as he was not trustworthy when he lived with the narrator due to his alcoholism. The fact that the narrator at the beginning of the story does not trust himself when it comes to his father is important as it suggests again that the narrator is unable to let go of the past. He does not know what to expect when he meets his father having not seen him in twenty-seven years. Though some critics might suggest that the narrator is pitying himself, unlike his father, it is understandable. His world was torn apart when his father abandoned him and his mother. It is only because of his mother that the narrator is seeing his father again. Even though he only knew the name of the pub that his father might be drinking in.

There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The bush may represent the past to the narrator. How things have not changed when it comes to how the narrator feels. With change only coming at the end of the story for the narrator. Bob’s new nickname is completely different to what the narrator expected and this change is good for the narrator as it allows for him to grieve the past. Despite the negative memories that he has. Also the mother’s decline in health is significant as she acts as the impetus for the change that occurs within the narrator. Her life is over and she knows that the narrator needs some type of closure with his past. Bob has changed and it is time for the narrator to change when it comes to his opinion of his father. Bob’s dog, who is happy throughout the story, in many ways mirrors the feeling that the narrator has when he realizes his father has changed. He may not be able to change the past but he is able to let go of it and look forward to some type of relationship with his father. The fact that Bob was a policeman with a conscious is important as Winton could be using Bob’s occupation to highlight to the reader the fact that Bob has the capacity to change. He went from a policeman to a floor sweeper before eventually giving up alcohol.

The end of the story is interesting as the narrator appears to accept his father for who he is and is allowed time to grieve for his mother’s impending death. For the first time in the story the narrator has complete acceptance. He accepts Bob for who he is and is somewhat proud of him and accepts his mother’s looming death. If anything the narrator has the capacity to let go of the past and move on with confidence that he has accepted things in his life that had brought him shame and made him feel untrustworthy of his father. As for the father, he is a man who is proud of the fact that he can see his estranged wife when he is sober after the passing of so many years. He knows there is very little he can do but understands he has an obligation and a responsibility to honour his wife’s wishes and come back home for the last time. Ironically the narrator’s mother’s death will finally unite the family again.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "Commission by Tim Winton." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 22 Sep. 2022. Web.

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