Defender by Tim Winton
In Defender by Tim Winton we have the theme of memories, letting go, shame, guilt, fear, adultery and happiness. Taken from his The Turning collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realizes that Winton may be exploring the theme of memories. Much to Gail’s annoyance Vic continues to talk about his past as though it was his present. If anything he is unable to let go of his childhood and youth in Angelus. He has just lost his parents and that compounds the memories for Vic. As to why Vic is unable to let go of the past is clear. He knows that his father’s alcoholism led to the family becoming dysfunctional and Vic taking responsibility for his mother and sister far too young. A role that Vic has carried through in life through his profession as a lawyer. Vic likes to see wrongs righted but he is unable to right the wrongs he perceives that have happened to him.
The fact that Gail admits to an affair is interesting as Vic does not really react as one might expect a man to react. Vic is more concerned about telling Gail that he is not a racist. It is as though others’ opinion of him is important. There is a role for Vic to play and he plays it well. Hiding the present and reliving the past. A past that Vic will simply not let go of. Gail for her part might wish that Vic got mad with her. At least she could understand this type of reaction to the news that she had an affair. However Vic remains preoccupied with the past. A past that he is unable to change or accept such is the impact his father leaving him had. This along with the move to Angelus by Vic’s family have altered the direction of Vic’s life and how he feels about family. It might also explain as to why Vic and Gail have no children. Vic could be afraid that he might destroy the lives of his children just as his life was destroyed by his father leaving.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The honesty that Gail shows, by telling Vic about the affair, serves to relieve her of guilt. Something that she might have planned such was the depth of guilt that Gail felt. After all Gail feels ashamed about having the affair and wants to cleanse herself. Vic holding Kiera’s hand could also be symbolic. Winton may be suggesting or highlighting the fact that Vic longs for the innocence of his youth. Before his father left him and when things were happier. Fenn and Daisy can be seen to represent another slice of life. They may be running out of money (according to Vic) but they are happy living the life they live. Even if Fenn at one stage cheated on Daisy. There is also an acceptance when it comes to Fenn and Daisy. They accept the position they find themselves in and move forward continuously. Something that will benefit their children who will not see their parents stressed in any manner. The affair that Gail had also represents a strong desire to escape loneliness. Such is the feeling that Gail feels within the marriage with Vic unable to let go of the past.
The end of the story is interesting as Vic seems to have found contentment. He is firing a weapon for the first time since he was a cadet. A time that Vic remembers with affection and because his father still lived with Vic at that time. If anything the shooting of the skeets brings back happy memories for Vic. Unlike how he feels about the majority of his memories from the past. This may be significant as it suggests that there is still some hope that Vic will accept his past for what it is. Memories. He might just be able to move forward thanks to his time with Fenn and Daisy. Two people who despite Fenn’s affair accept the position they find themselves in and have continuously moved forward. Vic could learn a lesson from Fenn and Daisy.