The Boy Behind the Curtain

by

Tim Winton

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The Boy Behind the Curtain: A Walk at Low Tide Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Before sunrise, Winton heads out on his daily walk along the shoreline near his house. Though the landscape seems uneventful, he returns every day and sees that it’s a new place. The creatures living in the ocean and the sand have been moving, leaving marks in the sand; as the sun rises, he sees different parts of nature scattered along the beach.
Winton’s ability to notice small changes and the tiny lives on the seashore suggests that this practice of noticing is vital to his creative work. Further, his appreciation of the sea creatures illuminates his love for the ocean and the littoral environment of the shore.
Themes
Creativity Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Though Winton walks the beach every day and often sees new things, he rarely actually pays attention to what he’s seeing. He treats the things he sees “as though they are objects, rather than subjects.” When he is really paying attention, he appreciates each thing’s subjecthood—the story it might’ve had before it arrived on the beach, or the life it still leads.
Winton’s effort to treat even the tiniest creatures as “subjects” echoes the grammatical guidelines relating to subjects and objects in a sentence: a subject does something, while an object has something done to it. It’s important to him to grant these creatures agency and the capacity for action.
Themes
Creativity Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Winton occasionally realizes that each of these trillions of creatures on the shoreline has its own life, and he appreciates the vastness of nature and its yearning for growth. Taking the time to look beyond what they first appear to be—to imagine their stories and the part they play in the world—is to acknowledge their “holy purpose” and to be changed in return.
The idea that these creatures have narratives, origins, and goals reflects on Winton’s career as a novelist, in which his attention is always on plot and character. Meanwhile, his suggestion that there’s something holy about the natural world echoes his attachment to religion and faith which he later explores in “Twice on Sundays.”
Themes
Creativity Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Quotes