The Boy Behind the Curtain

by

Tim Winton

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Boy Behind the Curtain can help.

The Hospital Symbol Analysis

The Hospital Symbol Icon

The hospital symbolizes the fear that often accompanies life’s most transformative and uncontrollable moments. The hospital first becomes an emotional place for Winton when Winton’s father spends considerable time there recovering from a devastating motorbike crash. When Winton’s father returns home from the hospital, five-year-old Winton sees how his father’s stay at the hospital transformed him into a vulnerable, broken man. The experience teaches Winton to see the hospital as a place from which people emerge changed—often for the worse. Whenever Winton’s father returns to the hospital for subsequent procedures, Winton is overcome with dread, not knowing what state his father will be in when he comes home again. When Winton himself is taken to hospital after a car crash as a teenager, feelings of pain and fear dominate his time there. In each of these experiences, the hospital embodies a point in Winton’s life in which the future is uncertain and difficult to see.

Over the course of Winton’s adult life, however, the hospital becomes a more complex symbol for such transitional phases. Though living practically next door to the frenetic chaos of Fremantle Hospital overwhelms him, his proximity to it allows him to reconnect with an estranged friend who is at the end of his life. Winton meets his first grandchild in a hospital, and he later feels gratitude for his father’s new pacemaker, which was installed in a hospital. These experiences allow Winton to appreciate the hospital as a symbol of transformation not only related to fear, but also to hope, new life, and human connection.

The Hospital Quotes in The Boy Behind the Curtain

The The Boy Behind the Curtain quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Hospital. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
).
Havoc: A Life in Accidents Quotes

Sometime during that long convalescence I came upon the helmet Dad had been wearing when he was hit. Made of laminated cork, it was cumbersome, and it felt unstable in my hands. The crazed pattern of cracks dulling its whiteness gave it an unnerving broken-eggshell texture. For a long time—for years, I think—I continued to seek it out, to turn it over in my hands, to sniff the Brylcreem interior, and try to imagine the sudden moment, the awful impact, and the faceless stranger behind all this damage.

Related Characters: Tim Winton (speaker), Tim Winton’s Father
Related Symbols: The Hospital, Guns
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
In the Shadow of the Hospital Quotes

It wasn’t just a health facility. At times it was more like a furnace or a power plant. In summer the air around it was thick with screams and sirens and the drone of cooling towers, and in winter its beige mass blocked out the sun. It was a constant, implacable presence.

Related Characters: Tim Winton (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Hospital
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

Afterwards I often looked up at that dreary building as the sun lit its windows and thought of strangers staring out in hope and regret as the rest of us went about our day oblivious. It was sobering to think of all the yearning that spilt down amidst the treetops and roof ridges, a shadow I’d never properly considered before.

Related Characters: Tim Winton (speaker), Tim Winton’s Estranged Friend
Related Symbols: The Hospital
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Boy Behind the Curtain LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Boy Behind the Curtain PDF

The Hospital Symbol Timeline in The Boy Behind the Curtain

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Hospital appears in The Boy Behind the Curtain. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
In the Shadow of the Hospital
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Winton mulls on the idea of the hospital as a shelter, a refuge in the most desperate times. We’re relieved by the sight... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
As a five-year-old, Winton experiences the fear that hospitals represent when his father goes to one and comes out completely broken and unrecognizable. When... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
...has to walk with a stick, and whenever he has to go back to the hospital for more surgery, Winton worries that he’ll never come home, or that he’ll come home... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Creativity Theme Icon
As an adult, one of the images Winton sees when he thinks of a hospital is of the main character in Johnny Get Your Gun, a quadruple amputee covered in... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Though in childhood his family makes several hospital visits and he’s well-acquainted with the place, Winton is never admitted as a child. When... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
...long road of recovery is the real challenge. The constant noise and bustle of the hospital prevents him from resting, and he constantly wants what he can’t have—pain relief, a pillow,... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Winton ends up marrying a nurse, who brings home signs of the hospital in the way she smells and the stains on her clothes. Sometimes, reluctantly, he meets... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...five years, Winton and his family live next door to Fremantle Hospital, a large metropolitan hospital. It seems like its own world at times, more like a power plant than a... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
...is embedded in its urban surroundings rather than isolated and set apart, as a suburban hospital might be; its bright lights and security guards often give Winton the feeling that he’s... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...obvious display of distress. He realizes that his patience and empathy for many of the hospital’s injured patients is dissipating, especially when it comes to the Saturday night crowd, who are... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
After a while, Tim’s family moves a few blocks away from the hospital, tired of its incessant energy. But Winton realizes its effect extends beyond its immediate vicinity.... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
When Tim’s first grandchild is born, he waits in the hospital for the first bit of news. The place is claustrophobic, and he can’t calm down.... (full context)