Family by Tim Winton
In Family by Tim Winton we have the theme of uncertainty, escape, connection, memories, freedom, love and relationships. 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 realises that Winton may be exploring the theme of uncertainty. When Leaper gets into his car he is uncertain of where he should go. He thinks about going to see his brother Max and his sister in law but he is forced to sleep off a hangover. This may be significant as Leaper has been drinking for days which suggests that Leaper is trying to forget things or to escape from something. Something that becomes clearer to the reader when we realize that Leaper has walked away from a football career for no reason or so it would appear. Leaper’s relationship or rather the lack of it with his family is also interesting as Leaper is somewhat naïve when it comes to familial relationships.
His mother walked out on him and his brother Max when they were young and it was only when Leaper reached twenty that he realized that his mother was not coming back. His father on the other hand was always there for him. However this was not enough for Leaper as his father did not know what love was. Max seems to have distanced himself from his mother early on and took on the role of a bully. Probably to hide the fact that the loss of his mother had a profound effect on him. Even if his father was always there. If anything both siblings were raised in a cloud of uncertainty or at least Leaper was believing that his mother would come back. The absence of love is important as Leaper still possessed the ability to love someone particularly when it came to Max. He loves him dearly even if the love is not reciprocated.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The sea and surfing can be seen to represent freedom to Leaper. He feels free when he is by the sea even if he is clouded, uncomfortably, with memories of the past. Max as a character plays an important part in the story because he acts as a trigger for Leaper. It is Max who does not allow Leaper to grow up and is constantly berating him in the sea just as he did when both men where young boys. Despite this Leaper wants to and continues to try and make a connection with Leaper. With Max’s family acting as symbolism for this connection. As mentioned Max wants to meet his sister in law as he considers her to be family and he knows how unkind it is to lose a family member (his mother). If anything the sea also acts as a place that Leaper can make a connection. He has played on the beach and in the sea since he was a child. Many of the memories, particularly the football memories on the beach, are happy ones. The fact that Leaper did not attend his father’s funeral is also an interesting point as it suggests that Leaper despite his desire to connect with him was blocked by his father’s inability to love him as Leaper thought he should. Leaper may simply have felt, through the lack of love displayed by his father, that they had nothing in common.
The end of the story is interesting as Leaper comes to Max’s rescue when he is attacked by the shark. It is Leaper, through love for Max, who saves Max’s life. Something that Max does not acknowledge. Though this is understandable considering the position that Max finds himself in. He is most likely in shock after being attacked by the shark. However there is some sort of explanation from Leaper as to why he has abandoned a career in football despite the shame that Max feels it has cause him and others. Leaper admits that everything he has done in life has been out of love for Max. All the positives in Leaper’s life have been an attempt by Leaper to prove to Max that he is as good as him. In reality and despite how Max treated Leaper, when they were younger, he has been looking for his older brother’s approval.