The Boy Behind the Curtain

by

Tim Winton

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The Ocean Symbol Analysis

The Ocean Symbol Icon

Throughout Winton’s life, the ocean symbolizes both boundless freedom and unidentifiable danger. As a child, Winton feels that the ocean is his backyard—he’s less afraid of it than of the prospect of losing it. And even as an adult, the ocean’s offerings of life and action unleash his imagination to roam free. In “High Tide,” he observes the bustling traffic on a reef and compares it to a scene by Kubrick, whose 2001: A Space Odyssey similarly opened up the world of creativity and story for him. Winton’s deep connection with the ocean leads Winton into activism as an adult. For instance, he participates in the battle to protect Ningaloo Reef from prospective developers. Winton is compelled to save this vast expanse—and its corresponding freedom—for his grandchildren to enjoy just as he did before them.

But the ocean also symbolizes dread and danger. As a boy, a trailer at the cinema instills in Winton a peripheral fear of sharks—a fear that seems to hold sway over much of Australia. Consequently, the ocean symbolizes the potential danger at the edges of Winton’s everyday life. His inability to resist getting close to whales and sharks, along with his obsession with the documentary Blue Water, White Death, demonstrates that danger, like the ocean, is a constant presence in his life.

The Ocean Quotes in The Boy Behind the Curtain

The The Boy Behind the Curtain quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Ocean. 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
).
A Walk at Low Tide Quotes

If you can ever know something you’ll understand it by what it has given, what it owes, what it needs. It has never existed in isolation. And ghosting forever behind its mere appearance is its holy purpose, its billion meetings with the life urge in which it has swum or tumbled or blossomed, however long or however briefly.

Related Characters: Tim Winton (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Ocean
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
High Tide Quotes

Ashore there’s a wary osprey astride a bleached stump and beneath him the charred remains of a bonfire from last winter. Drop your face back in and it’s something out of Kubrick, all hurtling colours and shapes and patterns so intense as to be slightly mind-bending.

Related Characters: Tim Winton (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Ocean
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:
The Wait and the Flow Quotes

Waiting and flowing were anachronistic notions, they’d nearly become foreign concepts, but to me they were part of an imaginative lexicon, feeding something in me that had to do with more than surfing. The child of a pragmatic, philistine and insular culture, I responded to the prospect of something wilder, broader, softer, more fluid and emotional. It sounds unlikely but I suspect surfing unlocked the artist in me.

Related Characters: Tim Winton (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Ocean
Page Number: 132-133
Explanation and Analysis:

I show up. I wait. When some surge of energy finally arrives, I do what I must to match its speed. While I can, I ride its force. For a brief period I’m caught up in something special, where time has no purchase, and my bones don’t ache and my worries fall away. Then it’s all flow. And I’m dancing.

Related Characters: Tim Winton (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Ocean
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:
The Battle for Ningaloo Reef Quotes

It seemed to me at the time that this movement might have been named after the wrong colour, that nothing was as likely to stir the imagination of Australians so much as the sea. With Save Ningaloo we stumbled onto the only sacred site in the mind of mainstream Australia—the beach. Somehow the childhood memory of clean seas and the workaday longing for respite in salty air and the dream of retiring to a still-living coast resonate in the suburbs like nothing else.

Related Characters: Tim Winton (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Ocean
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:
The Demon Shark Quotes

In the wake of that cold, sweaty minute in the Astor it wasn’t as if I was consciously and constantly afraid of sharks but they were a liminal presence thereafter, something lurking in the water beyond the pleasure of the moment. It hardly ruined my life but it did divide the mind in a way that was new. For along with the creaturely joy of snorkelling in the open water behind the reef there was now a twitch of anxiety. The eye searched for something even when I wasn’t looking.

Related Characters: Tim Winton (speaker), Tim Winton’s Father
Related Symbols: The Ocean
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

When anglers like the legendary Alf Dean “fought” tiger sharks and great whites they did it for pleasure, for some sense of mastery, then they dragged them ashore and hung them from gantries. I remember enormous, distended carcasses suspended from meat hooks and steel cables on jetties on the south coast. The dead sharks often had their lengths and weights painted on their flanks as if they were machines.

Related Characters: Tim Winton (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Ocean
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:
Sea Change Quotes

The good old days may be long gone, yet here we are, as ever, launching a boat from the beach in a quiet bay under cloudless skies, bobbing on clean water. In an hour we’ll have enough sweet-tasting fish to feed two households.

Related Characters: Tim Winton (speaker), Tim Winton’s Father
Related Symbols: The Ocean
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Ocean Symbol Timeline in The Boy Behind the Curtain

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Ocean appears in The Boy Behind the Curtain. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Walk at Low Tide
Creativity Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
High Tide
Nature Theme Icon
...been cooped up in the air conditioning for too long—it’s time to go swimming. The sea is only 100 meters away, but they’re both exhausted by the time they reach it,... (full context)
The Wait and the Flow
Nature Theme Icon
...surfing was. To him, it seemed like all surfers did was sit out on the ocean and wait. Winton agrees—surfing is a pointless exercise, and mostly, it’s just about waiting. (full context)
Creativity Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...In his childhood, it’s a way to feel close to one another and to the ocean and to distance yourself from a normative linear mindset, focusing instead on the “waiting and... (full context)
Creativity Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...It’s a meditative activity. Unlike other sports, it relies on being in communion with the ocean rather than exploiting it. It forces him to slow down and wait, the same way... (full context)
The Battle for Ningaloo Reef
Nature Theme Icon
...to build a vast resort and marina there which would have had severe implications on Ningaloo Reef, Australia’s longest fringing coral reef. Ningaloo, a particularly vulnerable reef due to its proximity... (full context)
Nature Theme Icon
The fight for Ningaloo is a fight between two different worldviews: one being that nature exists to be exploited... (full context)
Nature Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...to spread the movement to even more people. Still, fighting for nature conservation in the Ningaloo battle looks like a tough process—it seems highly unlikely that anything will stop the resort’s... (full context)
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
With other campaigns focusing their energy on woodchipping, the campaign for Ningaloo has to start from nothing and find its own funding. Campaign workers borrow an office... (full context)
Creativity Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...stakes of the situation, the premier takes on responsibility to decide what will happen to Ningaloo Reef. (full context)
Creativity Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...courage and progressiveness of the new premier, and the Australian love and nostalgia for the ocean: “the only sacred site” for most citizens. The diversity of the campaign, the generosity of... (full context)
Chasing Giants
Nature Theme Icon
...stopped in Australia, he’s had more and more chances to swim with them in the ocean. When a blue whale washed up on the shore close to where he lived, he... (full context)
The Demon Shark
Creativity Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Childhood and Home Theme Icon
...accustomed to the luxury of wide-open space that comes along with living in Australia. The ocean and its vastness is an endless offering to him, and he always wants more of... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...sharks and the horror they signify—suddenly, he’s much more aware of the danger in the ocean, and when he’s out surfing, the idea of sharks lurks in the back of his... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...statements like that are from politicians and others who spend very little time in the ocean and are looking to rile up the public—yet road accidents, which cause a huge number... (full context)
Danger, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...that public opinion and awareness of sharks needs to change in order to save precious ocean habitats when there’s still a chance to do so. (full context)
Lighting Out
Creativity Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
...make a U-turn and go home. He pushes himself on to the lookout over the ocean, hoping to see a whale. He doesn’t see any, and when he gets back into... (full context)
Sea Change
Nature Theme Icon
Childhood and Home Theme Icon
...only do on their holidays, snorkeling and diving off the jetty. The bounty of the sea, like squid and crayfish, was a constant part of the family’s diet. The ocean served... (full context)
Nature Theme Icon
Childhood and Home Theme Icon
Last summer, Winton took his granddaughter into the ocean for the first time and was thrilled by the opportunity to pass down his love... (full context)
Nature Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Community Theme Icon
Tim’s understanding of the threatened oceanic world was mild and distant until a catastrophic oil spill occurred near the Western Australia... (full context)
Nature Theme Icon
...natural world, he thinks of a nuclear bomb crater where he once swam north of Ningaloo Reef. When he swam there, there was only sand and strange white worms, but now... (full context)