Throughout his life, Tim Winton has many experiences with different kinds of communities. From the church community of his childhood to his university peers and mentors to his fellow campaigners in the bid to protect Ningaloo Reef, Winton seems to feel affection and respect for the groups of people who surround him while also feeling uncomfortable in their midst. This discomfort and resistance to tribalism seems to come from his journey within the church as an adolescent, which became fraught when he began to challenge the older church members’ increasingly insular attitudes and beliefs. Winton’s frustration with this close-minded thinking leads him to value his independence, and he discovers he can be a person of faith without conforming to the group mentality that seemed counterproductive to him. His desire for independence appears to go hand-in-hand with his love for isolated, wide-open spaces: it’s in the lonely, vulnerable landscapes of the Western Australian wilderness, or far out in the ocean trying to catch a wave, that he feels most meditative and at peace. While Winton finds strength and solidarity in community, those qualities are only useful to him as long as he isn’t dependent on them. Thus, while The Boy Behind the Curtain portrays community as a positive, rewarding experience, it suggests that a person can only reap these benefits it they maintain a strong sense of self.
Isolation vs. Community ThemeTracker
Isolation vs. Community Quotes in The Boy Behind the Curtain
The whole thing was a garish sideshow, absurd and sinister. In that ugly flashback I heard myself laughing like a deranged clown. I was a university student but I couldn’t even tell the ambos who the prime minister was. And in the ambulance I could not move a limb. Some bloke with hairy arms was holding me down. It wasn’t a rescue—it was a kidnapping.
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.
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.
According to this new dispensation Australia does not belong to the wider world. We’re nobody’s fool. We have no obligations to our fellow humans, unless it suits us. Why? Because we are exceptional therefore beyond reproach. What makes us so special is not clear but we are determined, it seems, to distinguish ourselves in the world by our callousness, by our unwavering hardness of heart.