Damaged Goods by Tim Winton

In Damaged Goods by Tim Winton we have the theme of memories, loneliness, letting go, independence, obsession, jealousy, acceptance and struggle. Taken from his The Turning collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed woman and from the beginning of the story it becomes clear to the reader that Winton may be exploring the theme of memories. The narrator likes when Vic talks about Alison. She understands how much of an effect that Alison had on her husband’s life. What is also interesting is the fact that the narrator is not jealous of Vic’s relationship with Alison. How he is unable to let her go despite the passing of time. If anything the narrator likes Vic talking about the past but does have concerns that Vic may not be living in the present and that she herself feels lonely because of this. Though Vic is obsessed with Alison the narrator knows that Vic is still good-natured. That he fights for the underdog and she considers Alison to have been an underdog because of her birthmark.

It is also evident in the story that Winton is exploring the theme of struggle. Vic for his entire life has struggled. His father took to alcohol and then abandoned him and his mother and sister. Leaving Vic to be the man of the house and to look after the family. The narrator too struggles even if she is accepting of Vic’s obsession with Alison. She longs for the comforts that come from being with a man and she does admit to feeling the need to have an adulterous relationship with others. This may be important as though the narrator is forgiving she is after all only human with human needs. She cannot be expected to live her life revolved around Vic’s obsession. To satisfy her needs and mind she has even asked for Vic to accompany her when she drives to the old town that he grew up in but Vic perhaps because he doesn’t want to let go of the past has no interest. If he is to return to the town he has to see the tree that Alison crashed into with her girlfriend. Something that might destroy the myth that Vic has created around Alison.

There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that the narrator has driven to Vic’s old town on her own on many occasions suggests she is independent (to a limit). She may not always necessarily need Vic. Something that Vic might not be aware of nor does it seem like he cares. Particularly when he fixates his mind on Alison. The continuous sightings of the whales also seem to mirror the frequency that Alison is in Vic’s mind. They like Alison are ever present. The doll that the narrator’s sister won and kept for years after her father’s refusal to give her the doll could be seen as a dependency of sorts. Just as Vic is dependent on his memories of Alison. The girls who were Alison’s friends (the posse) are also important as they act as a trigger for Vic’s jealousy when it comes to people in Alison’s life. The title of the story is significant in so much as that some readers might consider the narrator and not Alison to be damaged goods with Vic obsessed with another woman.

The end of the story is interesting as the narrator continues to accept the position she finds herself in despite feeling lonely. She knows that Alison is part of Vic’s past, present and future and she has learnt to accept this. Though some readers might consider that the narrator is forced to live her life in some sort of competition with Alison. A competition that the narrator may know she will never win because of the pedestal that Vic has put Alison up on. In many ways the narrator has no choice but to accept Vic for who he is. She knows that he is a good man who is unable to let go of the past but the narrator too, just like her sister and the doll, is also unable to let go of her past and her religious upbringing. If anything Winton has written a story about two characters who are unable to let go of their past and who for one this is acceptable and for the other it is something they (Vic) don’t probably realize they are doing. Holding onto the past. After all Vic likes to fight for the underdog and for him Alison was the first underdog he met but she may be a deflection for Vic’s inability to accept that his father abandoned the family.

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

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