Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet reveals the birth of Compassion

Australian writer Tim Winton's masterpiece is, Cloudstreet whose every word seems to sparkle with the special light that illuminates the air in his hometown of Perth. The novel revolves around two charming, eccentric families.  I am drawn in particular to the tenderness between two brothers, Quick and Fish.  Quick saved Fish from near drowning and now must bear his father remarks, "You know damm well your brother is busted in the head and he'll never grow up right." 

The following excerpt  reveals the birth of compassion in a young man's heart as he moves through his own pain and trauma, stops seeing himself as a victim and recognizes the humanity in others.

I've pulled a kid out of the river before Rose (Quick's wife).  When I was eleven year old. My own brother. I know how it feels.  I know how that poor bastard feels.  And I got thinkin about my childhood, my life.  I did a lot of feelin sorry for myself, those years.  I used to see the saddest things, think about the saddest, saddest things.  And those things put dents in me, you know.  I could've turned out angry and cold…turned, like a pot of milk.

So, you've given away the old good and evil? asked Rose, amazed at all this rare talk from Quick.

No. No. But it's not us and them anymore.  It's us and us and us.  It's always us. That's what they never tell you.  Geez Rose, I just want to do right. But there's no monsters, only people like us.  Funny, but it hurts.       

             -Tim Winton, Cloudstreet, Penguin Books, p. 402

This reflection is part of the series: How People With Disabilities Will Save the World.  I welcome your suggestions or a guest contribution.  You can access the whole series by clicking the category: Save the World.

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