Textual Ideology

Ideology in Cloudstreet When we talk about the ideology of a text we are talking about the complex sets of beliefs, values and ways of thinking which are reflected in, endorsed or produced by the text. Note that certain ideologies may be represented in a text but not endorsed by the text. For example, we might find that a text represents (i.e. presents the reader with) patriarchal ideology but does not endorse it. It is important to get your head around this distinction. It is also important to note that a text does not necessarily present the reader with a coherent, consistent, single ideology. Ideology in a text may be confused, conflicting, inconsistent or multi faceted. This is especially the case with postmodernist texts which often deliberately refuse a single coherent ideological explanation. This is part of the postmodernist strategy of rejecting coherent explanations which lay claim to truth status, preferring rather eclecticism and uncertainty as strategies more appropriate to modern existence. Ideology and Context The ideologies we find within a text are influenced by the context of the text - the circumstances surrounding its production. In other words they are influenced by the ideologies of the society in which the text was produced. However, and this is important, it is rare that we find a literary text which simply reproduces an existing social ideology. Rather we often find, and certainly do find in Cloudstreet, a complex amalgam of social ideologies. Writers are not simply scribes for society. They are themselves a complex intersection of social and psychological forces and this is reflected in their writing. In Cloudstreet we can identify the influence of the following contextual ideological factors:  Winton¶s Christian upbringing and ongoing commitment to Christianity, which encompasses a belief in a benign supernatural being who directs humans from a state of µsin¶disharmony, dissatisfaction and a lack of belonging - to a state of µgrace¶ - harmony, satisfaction and a sense of belonging  Winton¶s situation as a writer in a postmodernist literary context which implies a postmodernist refusal to accept that all aspects of human experience and existence can be fully explained in terms of a coherent pattern (note that this belief conflicts with the previous one)  Winton¶s working class background and inheritance of an Australian literary tradition of representations of working class life which values µbattling¶ as a way of life and accepts a life lived in terms of half-felt understandings and superstitions, rather than rational, developed understandings; and which values a sense of belonging to family and community 1
© Rod Quin and Associates 16/09/2008 www.englishcurriculum.com.au  Winton¶s working during a time in Australian history which saw a

movement towards an attempt at reconciliation between Aboriginal and other Australians, and a discovery and appreciation by non-Aboriginal Australians of particular values within Aboriginal culture - especially strong family and community ties, a sense of place as an integral part of being, and a sense of the spiritual. The ideology of Cloudstreet The first point to make, therefore, is that the ideology of Cloudstreet is complex and not necessarily consistent. It is a complex amalgam of values and ideas drawn from a range of social ideologies. We can say that Cloudstreet represents not a coherent philosophy, but a number of different sets of values and ideological positions. Keeping this in mind, we can identify particular ideologies at work within the text: An understanding of life in terms of a religious pilgrimage This clearly draws on Christian tradition but Cloudstreet does not reproduce a wholly Christian ideology. While there is a sense of the supernatural at work in the lives of the characters, this is represented as an eclectic amalgam of traditional Christian attitudes, working class superstitions and Aboriginal spirituality. This is perhaps the dominant ideology (because it is the dominant theme) of Cloudstreet but there are other ideologies at work, some separate, some intersecting and some conflicting.

however strange. 2 © Rod Quin and Associates 16/09/2008 www. This valuing of working class experience is particularly highlighted by the celebratory ending of the novel with its valuing of µhow we¶ve all battled in the same corridor time makes for us¶.the way it draws on a diverse range of ideological traditions and positions. It is significant that in Cloudstreet there is no real villain.com. An acceptance and valuing of the diversity of human experience and understanding This is illustrated in the position the reader is invited to adopt towards the characters: especially in the first half of the novel the experiences and understandings of all characters are presented in terms of equal validity. community and place Again in producing this ideology the novel draws on Christianity and the trad ition of the Christian community. A refusal of final and complete explanations This ideology reflects both postmodernism and a much older religious spiritual tradition which includes but is not restricted to Christianity.au This ideology is also illustrated in the novel¶s eclectic approach to ideology . While the portrayal of life as a pilgrimage is the dominant structuring and ideological device in Cloudstreet there are many events and occurrences which cannot easily be explained in terms of this construct or indeed in any terms at all. nt there¶s no monsters.such as his attitude towards the burning of the guy on bonfire night.html . 3 © Rod Quin and Associates 16/09/2008 12 September 2010: http://englishteachingresources. As the novel draws to a close. while it is true that the understandings of Rose and Quick are privileged.A valuing and celebration of working class experience and of the resilience of working class peoplean appreciation of µbattling¶ and µbattlers¶ This draws on the working class tradition in Australian literature but it is also an ideology strongly associated with evangelical Christianity. throughout the novel as a whole no experiences or understandings.typepad. Even the mass murderer is eventually reconstructed as not aberra at heart: ³. the working class tradition of solidarity. In this respect the novels reveals the influence of postmodernism which refuses the privileging of one particular ideology over others.englishcurriculum.´ Quick says of him. and which Winton is known to be interested in.. and Aboriginal culture. A valuing of the importance of family.. Examples include:    the pig¶s talking in tongues the appearance and then departure of Beryl Gray much of the behaviour of Fish Lamb . are discounted or presented as aberrant.com/english_teaching_resource/2009/09/ideology-in-cloudstreet. only people like us.

It also means that the texts reflects postmodernist inclusivity in accepting and valuing a variety of voices and accounts of experience. which revolves around a house with a character of its own and a mystery at its centre 3. ³We¶ve all battled in the same corridor that time makes for us´. There is no single dominant character The lack of a single central characters is somewhat characteristic of the family saga but it is not characteristic of the mainstream European novel tradition which prioritises individ experience ual and growth. with its parables and stories of miracles 4. family. some of the supernatural events such as Quick¶s experience when the fish jump into his boat ± the ups and downs of Sam¶s success at gambling appear to follow no discernible pattern.. draws on and blends the conventions of a variety of very different genres: 1. Cloudtsreet leaves some loose ends. 2. tangental. The gothic novel. 1 © Rod Quin and Associates 9/20/2008 www. It values both Sam¶s superstitions and Lester¶s shaky . The effect of these is that the novel offers a view of experience which accepts the incoherence of much human experience and a lack of a belief that life always follows a clear pattern.au By departing from this focus on the individual as focal (and therefore ideological) centre of the novel.Postmodernism. The whole restless mob of us´. the incidents involving the cockatoo and the delivery horse. It can also be seen to offer a postmodernist outlook on life which rejects coherent and systematic narratives as the most appropriate reflection of human experience. However there are departures from this central narrative and Cloudstreet is characterised by the inclusion of events and mininarratives which seem unrelated or whose connection to the central narrative is minimal. and Fish¶s achievement of his longing to return to the water. involving the coming together of the two families through the marriage of Rose and Quick. This is not that unusual ± many novels consist of a series of sub-plots . It is important to note that there is a central narrative ± the families¶ eventual discovery of a sense of place. in postmodernist fashion. the story of the pig. This valuing and celebration of community aligns the texts with both Aboriginal cultural values and working class cultural values. The new postcolonial genre of magical realism 5. Partly because of its rich mixture of genres Cloudstreet also differs from many traditional novels in that: 1. The biblical tradition. The valuing of the communal is further reinforced by the central narrative which follows a movement from separation to belonging. The traditional popular literary tradition of the family saga (cf soap operas) 2. non-existent or hard to discern: ± the coming and eventual departure of Beryl Lee. rather than a single unified plot with a clear trajectory. Also whereas most novels tie all the different threads together at the end to produce a sense of unity to the narrative. This is reinforced by the opening and closing which focus on and celebrate communal experience and the importance of belonging to a group: ³Will you look at us by the river. community and peace.but these usually reflect on and comment on each other. structu re and point of view in Cloudstreet Or Generic innovation and tradition in Cloudstreet Generically Cloudstreet. It has a meandering plot. Thus the novel can be seen to validate a working class view of experience where one isn¶t always in control of life but subject to the ebb and flow of experience. Cloudstreet accords greater priority and value to the experience of communities and groups ± it values and celebrates collective experience above individual experience. the courtship and marriage of Hat Lamb. The tradition of working class anecdotes and yarns.englishcurriculum. style.com. Connected to this is the house µsettling¶ and finding a sense of peace.

an emphasis on the importance of place. Its symbolism can be seen as a mixture of Christian. The narrator is neither solely the anonymous narrator (but is omniscient) nor one of the characters in the novel as found in traditional novels. Ideologically the novel presents a complex mixture of:  Christian beliefs and values  Working class values and superstitions ± family. The river brings together both Christian and aboriginal beliefs. Point of view There is no consistent or dominant focaliser (a haracter which offers a dominant point of identification for the reader and through whose mind the reader experiences the narrative).html . The point of view in Cloudstreet shifts between characters. Aboriginal and working class Australian. down to earth approach This postmodernist melding of conflicting styles invites readers to see the spir itually significant in everyday working class life by incorporating previously unvalued. matriarchy  Aboriginal understandings and values ± esp. The novel can be seen as valuing different ways of knowing ± those found in Christianity along with those found in Aboriginal culture. It accepts Dolly¶s promiscuity and drunkenness as well as Oriel¶s puritanism and hard work ethic. 2 © Rod Quin and Associates 9/20/2008 www. The narration shifts between an anonymous third person and Fish at the moment of transfiguration. mythical approach to the novel¶s subject matter  Australian vernacular ± which presents a more flippant.englishcurriculum.com/english_teaching_resource/2009/09/ideology-in-cloudstreet. However: Stylistically the book uses a mixture of language drawn from both:  iblical tradition ± which b presents a serious.com.Christianity. marginalised (in literature at least) or denigrated ways of talking into a discourse of seriousness and high religiosity.typepad. Other unusual aspects of point of view in Cloudstreet are that:  the narrator speaks to characters in the novel  the narrator comments on his own situation.au 12 September 2010: http://englishteachingresources. life as a battle.