Neighbours by Tim Winton
In Neighbours by Tim Winton we have the theme of prejudice, acceptance and culture. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Winton may be exploring the theme of prejudice. The young couple are uncertain of their neighbours, at first not liking them because they are different (European) and have different values to the young couple. For example the young Macedonian boy urinates in the street. Something the young man is uncomfortable with. Likewise the neighbours’ cannot understand how the young man stays at home while the young woman is the one who works. However things begin to change and the young couple begin to accept their neighbours for who they are. The young couple even learn how to kill ducks and pluck them thanks to their neighbours.
The theme of acceptance is further explored when the young woman is pregnant. Though she might have scorned at her neighbours for pulling up her skirt, patting her belly and guessing the sex of the baby she knows that her neighbours are good-natured. That they want the best for the young woman and her husband. How accepted the young couple are is noticeable by the fact that the neighbours give presents for the baby to the young woman. This may be important as symbolically it suggests that barriers are being broken down. Cultural barriers that the young couple had placed in front of themselves at the start of the story. When first the young couple disliked their neighbours because they were European and not Australian.
There may be further symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that the neighbours are so happy that the young woman is pregnant suggests that they are pleased that there will be an addition to the community. The young woman’s request for liverwurst is also interesting as it suggests she has had liverwurst before. Possibly a gift from her neighbours. It would have been unimaginable for the young woman to eat something European early on in the story but since realizing her neighbours are good people the young woman has changed in her outlook of her neighbours. She not only likes her neighbours but she likes their culture as well. The wood that the polish widower uses to build a garage and which he gives the remaining wood to the young man may represent friendship, the building of a friendship. At first the young man cannot understand why the widower would build a garage for himself when he does not have a car, but after the gift of the wood, he accepts the widower’s efforts.
The end of the story is interesting as there does not appear to be any conflict in the story. Where once the young couple had a negative view of their neighbours they have since, on the birth of their son, fully accepted them for who they are. Something which is clearer to the reader when the young man goes out to his garden and sees his neighbours cheering. They too are happy for him and the young woman. If anything the young man has learnt more than his thesis could ever teach him about humanity. Leaving the reader to suspect that everything will be okay for the young couple. They have adapted to their surroundings and have an addition to the community. The fact that none of the characters are named is important as it suggests that Winton is setting an example or using the young couple and their neighbours as role models for others to learn from.