Winston by Lauren Mullings
In Winston by Lauren Mullings we have the theme of hardship, bullying, racism, deflection, anxiety, acceptance and coming of age. Narrated in the first person by Mullings herself the reader realizes after reading the story that Mullings may be exploring the theme of hardship. Mullings finds it difficult to co-exist with some of her classmates. This is not her fault but rather it highlights the hardships that Mullings is going through. Just because of her skin colour and heritage she is bullied by other children. People who have a racist agenda and believe that Mullings is not their equal, based solely on Mullings’ skin colour. It may also be a case that Winston, through his story telling, is deflecting or attempting to deflect from his own position in the community. He likes to make people laugh and he likes teasing them with his stories. However Winston is not a happy man. He is extremely unhappy and this may be a result of his inability to be accepted by others who are a different skin colour to Winston. At no stage in the story does the reader find Winston engaging with white people. He sticks to those that he knows, black people.
It is also clear that Mullings is on a road to discover who she is. Her identity has yet to be formed and she uses everything that is at hand to verbalize her identity. She looks at black television shows and cannot understand how on TV everything works out but this is not the same when it comes to her own anxieties. She is being bullied by others who as mentioned only bully her because of her skin colour. Her parents are of little use to her when it comes to bullying. Which is a here and now problem. All her mother can say is that when Mullings grows up she will be glad that she is different. This is of little use to the young Mullings. Mullings’ father plays an interesting role as he is mainly absent from the story with Winston acting as a father figure to the young Mullings. Which may be the point that Mullings is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that her father may have his own issues when it comes to racism. He may not be confident enough to help Mullings as he faces his own forms of bullying.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The reliance on TV shows and music to form an identity is evident in the story. With Mullings relying on both when it comes to difficult times in her life. Likewise Winston has become sort of a rock for Mullings though as the story progresses he loses his ability to be there for Mullings. This may be important as Winston may be worse off than Mullings. He has no armour when it comes to racism. Whereas Mullings has the ability to look at TV and listen to music to try and deflect from what is happening her. The fact that Mullings lies about other children in her school when it comes to racism is significant as it suggest s that Mullings is casting a wide net and being as racist as those who are bullying her. She does not see anything wrong with lying in order for her to get her own way. Something that is understandable considering Mullings’ young age.
The end of the story is interesting as Mullings appears to accept everything that has happened to her and Winston. She begins to understand just how difficult life must have been for Winston and if anything Mullings is coming of age. She realizes she does not live in a perfect world and has to react to life with the tools that she has. One of those tools was Winston but he himself has grown weary of his fight to be accepted by others outside his community. If anything Mullings has told a story of her life when she had to fight to be accepted by others. Again just because of her skin colour. Painting a picture of an Australia that many white Australian’s might not like to confront. It may be too close to the bone for many Australians.