Swallow the Air

by

Tara June Winch

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Alice / Old Mum Character Analysis

Mum’s mother, who frequently figures in the stories she tells May. Percy Gibson tells May that Alice left home as a young woman hoping to find meaning, just as May does. However, she ends up having several children with abusive partners and lives in poverty for the rest of her life. In many ways, May’s sense of hope and self-actualization at the end of the novel is a redemption of her grandmother’s suffering.
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Alice / Old Mum Character Timeline in Swallow the Air

The timeline below shows where the character Alice / Old Mum appears in Swallow the Air. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
3. Cloud Busting
Aboriginal Identity Theme Icon
Displacement Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
In 1967, Mum lives with her own mother, Alice, in a dismal housing project. The rest of her siblings had been put into missions... (full context)
Aboriginal Identity Theme Icon
Displacement Theme Icon
One day, a white salesman arrives in a suit, trying to sell saucepans. Alice puts out her cigarette and asks to look at them. The man opens the box... (full context)
Aboriginal Identity Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Alice starts taking on extra hours at work in order to save up more money. When... (full context)
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity Theme Icon
...Mum finishes the story, she always cries too. She’s inherited the pots and pans from Alice, and May knows that she would sell everything they owned before she gave them up.... (full context)
18. Country
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
Aboriginal Identity Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...relents and, in a kinder voice, tells her that just as May did, her grandmother Alice left home on foot looking for meaning. Thirty years later, she came back to the... (full context)
Aboriginal Identity Theme Icon
Displacement Theme Icon
...mission and learning from the elders. Percy tells her that she’s just like her grandmother Alice, who “died of hope.” He says that “we weren’t allowed to be what you’re looking... (full context)