Immunity by Tim Winton

In Immunity by Tim Winton we have the theme of connection, love, selfishness, desperation, acceptance, authority and shame. Taken from his The Turning collection the story is a memory piece that is narrated in the first person by an unnamed woman who recalls events when she was younger and from the beginning of the story the reader realizes that Winton may be exploring the theme of connection. The narrator longs to make a connection with the fifteen year old boy who is sitting in the same carriage as her. She knows him from school and in many ways she is infatuated or at least in love with him. Something that is clearer to the reader when we discover the narrator once walked past the young boy’s house five times one Sunday. It is also interesting that the boy does not recall the girl being a student from his school leaving the reader with the impression that the infatuation or love is one way. The boy is more interested in being a cadet than being in love.

The theme of authority is also evident in the story and it is possible that the narrator is not only in love with the boy but she may also like the fact that he looks good in a uniform. Even if she is repelled at the idea that the boy might one day become a soldier. She does not see the point in war or in somebody joining the army. This may be significant as though the boy has no interest in joining the army.  The narrator is is no nearer catching him at the end of the story than when she first sat down beside him. This too is important as Winton may be suggesting or highlighting the differences between sexes, particularly when it comes to younger people. They have the dreaded fact that they are nervous around the opposite sex especially when one is attracted to the other.

There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The boy’s uniform suggests that he is in authority even though he is young. This may be important to the narrator as she expects a trained cadet to take the lead. However the boy only talks of himself and does not show the same interest in the narrator as she shows in him. The uniform also can be seen to act as foreshadowing as we learn later on in the story that the boy ended up going to war as a soldier. The train itself, a transient machine that passes from place to place, in many ways mirrors the boy’s appearances in the narrator’s life. She has conceded that the boy does not recognize her from school and that he has no idea who she is. The narrator’s suggestion that she will be attending the boy’s school (which she already does) may be a sign of desperation. The girl is unable to let go of the boy. Even though again he is more interested in talking about himself. The bullet that fell at the boy’s leg could also be seen to be symbolic. Likewise the girl has not taken the bullet that might have been a relationship with the boy who acts selfishly throughout the story. Though some critics might suggest the boy, like the girl is nervous, there is no sign of this.

The end of the story is interesting as the narrator appears to accept the position she finds herself in. She knows that she has no chance with the boy and may be somewhat relieved. She can move on with her life and pursue other goals or boys. Though at the time the girl might not have felt like that. The fact that the boy’s father is at the train to meet him is also important as the boy feels somewhat ashamed. He probably knows that people will look at him differently knowing that his father is a policeman. However that might not have been the turning point for the girl who most likely is admiring of authority. She does after all like the boy’s uniform. If anything the narrator’s mind might have been made up not only when she becomes an adult but at the time that events took place. The boy again is more interested in his achievements than he is in the girl. The love the narrator has for the boy is not reciprocated.

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

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