Reunion by Tim Winton
In Reunion by Tim Winton we have the theme of connection, reconciliation, conflict, family, letting go and struggle. Taken from his The Turning and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by a woman called Gail and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Winton may be exploring the theme of connection. Carol is keen to go and see Ernie and Cleo even though there is an element of conflict between all three. It is as though there is a possibility for a reconciliation and Carol wishes to take advantage of it. If anything she wishes to put the past behind her and move forward. Just as Gail does later on in the story when she is discussing her parents with Carol and Vic. What is ironic about the story is that rather than Carol meeting up with Ernie and Cleo and reconciling. It is Gail who comes to bond with Carol. A connection that is mirrored by the fact that Gail jumps into the water when Carol falls into the pool. It is not as though Carol is in any danger. Rather it is the beginning of both women connecting with one another and Gail coming to terms with or finding the ability to let go of her past.
There is also a degree of animosity when it comes to Carol’s decision to meet Ernie and Cleo. Vic is not too keen on meeting them and if anything is protective of his mother. He does not wish to see her upset or for the past (and possible mistakes) to be dragged up again. His number one priority throughout the story is Carol. He is devoted to his mother. Something that Winton weaves into the story with a lot of simplicity. If anything Winton normalizes or makes the fact that Vic loves his mother to be something that is obvious yet not overstated. Though Vic is a policeman he is more concerned about his mother’s well-being than the fact that they may have trespassed on somebody’s house. Though he still does panic when he realises that he is at the wrong house. Something which some readers might suggest leads to Vic being considered to be conscientious. He intends to quietly slip away from what could be a very awkward moment.
The conflict that exits between Carol, Ernie and Cleo is in many ways similar to Gail’s own conflict when it comes to her parents. There is a lot of animosity and Vic himself on hearing Gail’s story immediately takes a disliking to Gail’s parents. Which he may or may not have done previously. Gail also shows an inner strength in being able to discuss with Carol and Vic how things were for her when she was growing up. She was alienated by her parents. Made to feel isolated particularly when it came to her birthday and she appears to have struggled through her formative years. This sense of struggle is also similar to Carol’s. With Gail telling the reader that in reality you never really know who Carol is because she keeps a lot to herself. In fact there is a sense of irony in the fact that she shares the story about Bob and Ernie when Ernie was attempting to reconcile with Cleo. It is a private moment from the past that may or may not have had to be shared. It does help that Winton is using the champagne to loosen each characters lips and allowing for more to be revealed to the reader.
The end of the story is also interesting as it becomes clear that Carol and Gail have a lot in common. So much in fact hat Gail decides to have some more champagne with Carol while there clothes are drying. There is a feeling that there is a new bond between both women. One that may not have previously been there and one in which Vic may not necessarily notice as he remains firmly rooted in the present throughout the story. Whereas both women venture into their past and allow for themselves to be vulnerable. Particularly Gail. Which may be the point that Winton is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that women can explore their past easier than men. They can take a moment that has hurt them and share it with another human being. Without feeling as though they will be judged by others for what they have said. If anything women may not necessarily get caught up in pride as much as men. Feeling free to share how they feel no matter how vulnerable it may leave them. As mentioned Carol and Gail have a lot in common though it make not necessarily be clear to either woman or to Vic.