Last Updated on December 18, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1149
Loss of Innocence
There are several moments throughout The Boy Behind the Curtain that introduce major turning points in Tim Winton's understanding of the world, its beauties and its dangers. Winton demonstrates quite clearly that his life began in a place of undisturbed innocence. When describing his childhood, he states, "I grew up in safety. In our home in the Perth suburb of Karrinyup there was nothing to fear and no one to second-guess." Winton goes on to explain that because his mother experienced a life of violence, she did everything in her power to ensure that Winton's childhood would be one of predictable security.
A tragic drunk driving accident when Winton was five years old shattered this security. Winton's father, John, was hit by a drunk driver who had run a stop sign. John was sent flying into a brick wall from the impact and left bedridden for many months. "The months of my father's convalescence had a lasting impact on me," Winton explains. He continues:
By these events I was drafted into the world of consequences. I became "Mummy's little helper." The little man. I was assigned the role of sibling enforcer and family protector. I was the keeper of grown-up secrets, the compensator, the listener. I had to be "wise beyond my years," to assume an unlikely authority, to understand what I could not pronounce.
At a very young age, Winton is suddenly sprung from his life of ease, security, and safety into a life of anxiety and immense responsibility. The sole breadwinner of his family, his father, had become incapacitated, and it was up to his mother and young Winton to fill this gaping hole. Winton's transition from childhood to adulthood began prematurely.
At the age of nine, Winton witnesses his first accident while out with his father—a man had been severely injured on the side of the road while riding his motorbike. While they waited for first responders to arrive at the scene, the victim's father appeared; he was drunk and became violent toward Winton's father. Winton identifies this incident as a major turning point for him, saying, "I had no experience of violence, domestic or otherwise." Here we clearly see the theme of loss of innocence emerging. Winton demonstrates his naivety when he admits, "I thought once the ambulance arrived everything would be fine, but when it finally pulled up the whole scene intensified, as though some fresh madness had arrived with it." His previous understanding of safety is disrupted here, as his image of a "rescue" becomes thoroughly complicated and messy.
Winton takes great pains throughout his memoir to illustrate to his audience the ways in which he was forced out of his childlike, innocent safe haven and into experiences of violence and danger. He draws meaningful connections between these experiences of lost innocence and the ways he now, as an adult, understands the world.
The Influence of Art on the Formation of Identity
Books and movies exert a great influence on Winton. The most significant example of this can be seen when Winton is eight years old and his friend's mother mistakenly brings the boys into the theater playing Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey for his friend's birthday party. Winton is eternally grateful for this mistake, as the movie greatly alters his worldview. He explains,
... What was most frightening about [the film] was the experience of being led out into the cold darkness of space and left alone. ... With the conventional tropes of popular storytelling snatched from me at every turn, I had the child's slowly mounting panic at having been abandoned.
Here, Winton reflects on how Kubrick's film drastically altered his understanding of storytelling. 2001: A Space Odyssey is worlds away from the tidy and organized stories to which Winton was formerly accustomed, and Winton discovers...
(The entire section contains 1149 words.)
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