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Tim Winton’s That Eye The Sky Essay, Research Paper
Q. If you studied two written texts this year, show how the authors use similar or different techniques to express their ideas.
Literature is based on a series of ideas. The way that these are expressed within texts are always dependent on an author s individual techniques. Through the utilisation of symbolism, characterisation, irony and style of narrative, JD Salinger s Catcher In The Rye and Tim Winton s That Eye, the Sky explore several ideas evolving around the paramount theme childhood, innocence and the physiological effects associated with tragedy within an adolescent s life.
Salinger s Catcher In the Rye, has a title which takes on symbolic importance. It expresses and symbolises the idea of the transition between childhood to adulthood. This is expressed through the metaphor of falling and the imagery of the catcher in the rye which stems from the notion of playing children freely enjoying their youth in a rye field, only to inevitably approach the looming threat of falling off the cliff. Through this, the rye field becomes a symbol for the freedom and purity of childhood. Holden wants to shield the children from the hidden cliff, which symbolizes the cruel realities of the adult world and be the catcher when they fall. This is Salinger s technique of expressing the idea that children are not phonies; they live and love without artifice and ulterior motives and to demonstrate that Holden wants to be a part of that world, not the grown-up world of pretension and cruelty. Nevertheless, the realistic Phoebe points out that Holden has misquoted Burns, for the poem goes, “If a body meet a body coming through the rye”, not “if a body catch a body.” Through this correction, Salinger demonstrates through the agent of Phoebe, the idea that denying adulthood is unrealistic or in other words, Holden s goal is unattainable, because he does not even know what the song means. Furthermore, through the symbolism of the rye field and that nobody can stay within its safe confines forever, reveals the idea that everyone must change and grow up. It is ironic that Holden is unable to prevent his own fall, which looms large over him.
Winton s title, That Eye, the Sky, on the other hand, has a thematic importance in expressing his ideas of religion, as well as linking place and spirituality. Initially, the sky is introduced symbolically as an eye between the trees, big branches like eyelashes across it and is used to reflect what is happening beneath it. Ort confides to it as theres no one to talk to except the big sky . and it is honest enough. It is clear Ort perceives this sky to be the eye of God, the creator of humans, the traditional source of light in human beings. This is also the same light, small and fat like a woolly sheep seen above his house which enhances the notion that Ort is watched over all night and day . It also represents the faith Ort and his mum have embraced that gave them the strength to go on. Religious symbolism, seems to be emphasised again, for this light could be parallel to the star of Bethlehem shining over the birth of Jesus in the stables, which lured his first followers. Similarly, this cloud, like a protective halo, is a symbol of a potential new beginning, a rebirth – perhaps a baptising – as well as the guiding light which draws Henry to the Flacks. It is important to note the contrast of the false eye Warburton wears which doesn t see anything as it emphasises the idea that Henry is a flawed messenger. He mimics the words of god, just as his eye mimics the eye in the sky, the true eye . Winton, in this case, is critically revealing the idea that it is important to trust one s own faith within the lord, rather that the priests, pastors or other leaders of religion for they too can be flawed in interpreting God s messages.
Nevertheless, on a more similar note, That Eye The Sky expresses similar ideas of childhood and innocence; the possibility of childhood leading towards the inevitable connection with adulthood. Morton Flack, more commonly known as Ort , is infact immersed in the machinations of adults. Winton carefully positions his protagonist as living with his mother, his invalidated father, his senile grandmother and the embittered, confused Tegwyn, his older sister. Through this contrast of characters, Winton is able to emphasis his own perception and ideas of children; their trusting nature and in the case of Ort, his their faith and optimism in someone whose knowledge remains dubious. Through Henry Warburton s perception of God, Ort is young enough to be impressed by this being who is in everything and sees and knows every little thing . Unlike Alice who responds accusing, So you re a preacher to Warburton s confession that he was sent by God, Ort is excited by this. This is not only due to his naivet and untainted view of the world, but also due to the desperation Ort feels in searching for the answer to the mysteries that have been accumulating; the secrets locked in his father s brain, his grandmothers impenetrable behaviour and the strange light over the roof, small and fat like a woolly sheep , amongst other things. Through creating these events, Winton is able to express his ideas of a child s faith and behaviour plausibly, while maintaining the childlike voice with flawless consistency. Ort s childhood innocence, is further emphasised through rich dramatic irony such as when he carelessly remarks that he came out of his mother s bum . Dramatic irony not only emphasises the naivet of Ort but build up the reader s perception of certain events which the narrator is not aware of.
Salinger and Winton also share the idea of how confusion, tragedy or rejection can result in a physiological breakdown within the parameters of an adolescence s mind. They both highlight this within the style of narration. Salinger uses direct address, flashback and digression, sometimes rather erratically, to tell his story. It is his way to express a mood of confusion, reflective of Holden s tormented state of mind. Clearly, Holden s life, and what is happening to him, does not make sense; therefore, he is incapable of telling the events that unfold in a strictly chronological or orderly way. Holden s narration is wrought with habitual phrases, it really was or I really was . This does not only simultaneously give rise to the effect that is it an adolescent telling this story, but also serves to express Salinger s notion of a child s need for reassurance and security; Holden is trying to make the reader believe his story and is afraid that we will not. In actual fact, it is the therapist, who Holden diligently recounts his story to, that Holden is trying to impress; he is desperate for the therapist to believe him as he is attempting to gain acceptance. Much of the novel s theme evolves around the individual and society, after all, and Holden s struggle to be accepted yet cannot as he is critical of society s values and will not conform.
Winton s style of narration through Ort, is indefinitely similar. Indeed, the technique of flashback is used, however, only to reveal the past histories of Sam, Alice and Warburton – rather than to reflect any emotional state of mind. Digression is sometimes noticed within Ort s narration such as when he remarks that Errol, his pet chook has a better name than the kids at school although mum says it is a sacrilege . Evidently, this is dramatically ironic and together with the paratactic narrative style, it serves to highlight that Ort is indeed a child, no matter how grown-up he may wish to appear. Furthermore, Winton often attempts to communicate how growing children, are caught between two worlds; childhood and adulthood. This is not only shown in Tegwyn s self-mutilation and turmoil between her physical and emotion life, but also the young protagonist. Ort Flack is desperate to appear grown up, expressed through his habitual phrase, I m not stupid, you know and it is his way to convince the reader that he is almost an adult – not an eleven-year-old boy. Yet this is always contradicted through Ort s behaviour and observations, which are dramatically ironic as the reader is able to perceive what Ort is not yet aware of. However, again, it is also contradicted for Ort seems to be in tune with many occurrences adults either casually dismiss or are not able to see – the sky , the cloud . The protagonist is seen to be very much in tune with the environment and much of it is personified to reflect upon Ort s moods. For instance, The moon sits over the road like a big fat thing foreshadows that something is wrong and reflects Ort s worried, scared attitude upon learning of his father s accident.
Symbolism is also used by both authors to further reflect the effect of unpleasant events within an adolescent s life. The impact of Sam s accident, causes Ort to mistake the flour and rice and lentils and icing sugar and tea for shining things .Jewels!”. This foreshadows and suggests potential physiological problems for Ort, as a result of the tragic accident befalling his terrific dad , who Ort clearly idolises with his hair longer than a Red Indian s.” Indeed, in the conclusion of That Eye The Sky, even after the confusion and turmoil has settled down, the effects of this tragic interference within family unity is still present. Ort continues to “see things The rubies and diamonds and things .” and this reinforces the idea that grief appears not in one explosive burst but rather comes and goes all day” subtly, intrusively and always unexpectedly, similar to his apparitions. It also emphasises Ort s ability to see what nobody else can and his individualistic perspective, also shown in the cloud and sky image.
The tragedy in Holden Caulfield s life on the other hand, is that he lacks the inability to adjust to institutional life and the world in general. This is first highlighted when Holden first wonders where the ducks go when the water freezes and this is his way of escaping Mr. Spencer s queries about, .how do you feel about this (his future)?” Evidently, even though Holden is constantly thinking, he is trying desperately not to feel anything. It also takes on a symbolic significance; that though firstly seen as a seemingly petty concern, it has an important role within the text – Holden clearly identifies with the ducks, hemmed in and freezing. Infact, this concern for the ducks safe escape parallels his own unrealized need for a safe haven. As Holden repeatedly questions the taxi drivers of the ducks fate, Where do the ducks go?” becomes a sad, echoing refrain which reveals that these ducks are not mere bodies, for Chrissake” but are Holden s way of asking of his fate and how he can escape the unbearable. Not surprisingly, the taxi drivers never provide an explanation about the ducks, similar to how Holden has no answer about his miserable existence. The constant repetition of the duck question is Salinger s technique of illustrating the idea of Holden s inner turmoil and the frustrated, trapped existence that he is stuck in, as well as simulataneously unifying the plot. Similarly, his descriptions of his journeys by train and taxi are reflective of the mechanical nature of Holden s life and enhance the quest motif of the novel.
In conclusion, The Catcher In The Rye and That Eye The Sky expressed its author s ideas through various tecnhiques of symbolism, style of narration, dramatic irony and charaterisation. Winton tended to highlight ideas of religion and the importance of love and faith being present when the holy spirit exacts miracles which changes lives. Salinger, on the other hand, emphasised ideas of the individual and society and the pressure to conform to its ways. However, both authors expressed similar ideas regarding childhood; the innocence, the faith, the awareness, the corruption and the inevitably approaching cliff of adulthood. In every sense, through similar and different techniques, Winton and Salinger expressed these ideas with startling clarity.
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