We must remember that character creation is a construct; an artefact and central ones do not necessarily represent the author. Characters are either portrayed sympathetically or unsympathetically. The former are called protagonists, heroes or good guys while the latter are antagonists, villains or bad guys. Sometimes main characters are picaresque – likeable but harmless rogues, larrikins or scoundrels –“loveable rogues”.
Martin Amis points out that over two millennia humans first told stories of Gods, then Kings, then Epic Heroes, then ordinary people , then anti-heroes, then villains, then demons and finally themselves.
Winton claims to write about the ordinary people. He writes that his characters are not as powerful as some people. They are little people, battlers, losers, trying to find meaning and hope in their lives. They are individual, distinctive; not homogenised or conformist.
Winton on Characters:
"People read a lot more into the fiction that’s probably not there, and it’s more perilous. You know, the number of people who think they’re in one of my books, or think they’ve been introduced in one of my books, who I’ve never met, or don’t know, or never even heard of! “So the power of fiction to drag people in and pull the rug from under their feet and convince them of things that aren’t real — that’s kind of inspiring and awesome in a way. It’s a bit intimidating when you realise it.’’
Winton’s art lies in his ability to put us into the minds and hearts of the wide range of his main characters giving us a wide range of perspectives to identify with.
Lester Lamb –
“These are farm people, though Lester Lamb has taken to being a policeman because the farm is on its last legs. Lester Lamb polices like he farms always a little behind the moment. He'd quit the force if only his wife would let him. Around town he's known as 'lest we forget' and if he knew, it would break his and take heart. “
Not totally reliable but he is a good father.
Oriel Lamb –
based on Winton’s paternal grandmother who “was a powerful matriarch who ran the family, a shop and most of the suburb and lived in a tent in the backyard…” (interview Good Weekend 1991)
On New Year's day, 1949, people gathered to watch Oriel Lamb move her things out to the white tent beneath the Mulberry tree at Cloudstreet. Page 133
is eleven. They call him Quick because he is as unquick as his father.
Samson is two years younger and the others call him Sam sonfish, or just plain Fish, for his wit and alertness. Everyone loves Fish. Just by dunking a girl’s braids in an inkwell he can make her love him. He endears teachers to him by giving them lip. And in town, he’ll wait till dark and crap in a paper bag and set fire to it on someone’s doorstep so they come out screaming and stamping and get poofooted, only to melt into jolliness when they see it’s just Fish Lamb and his fun. Page 27.
Oriel: that night, that long, horrid night by the estuary at Margaret River, when her men had walked on water and a lamp had gone out, that's what had brought them here to this life with one son gone and one missing and a feeling in your chest that you didn't know yourself anymore. Page 176
Fish: I'm behind the water, fish, I'm in the tree. I feel your pulse and I see you dreaming of Quick but out there in the wheat, and I see you coming. Your time will come, fish, you will have a second of knowing, a man for a moment, and it won't matter because you'll be me, free to come, and go, free to do puzzle and long and love, free of the net of time. p. 178
They're eating, Fish. And Quick is shooting, and back home, tingling himself at the black man passing overhead like an owl, the pig is singing. page 179
Hattie – Hat, married Geoff Birch of Pemberton.
Elaine - twin of Hat
Red - youngest girl
The Pickle Family
Sam - Son of a water diviner, loses his right hand in an accident at work, inherits £2000 and a rambling house in Perth from his cousin, Joel, publican of the Eurythmic Hotel in Geralton, bought from the earnings of horse racing in that name. Sam is a habitual gambler and improvident father. This is how his children see their parents:
I reckon it's a frigging House of cards I do said Ted and the old girls the wild card and the old man's the bloody joker. Page 41
Dolly - An extremely attractive woman, totally unsuited to be a wife or mother, when she is not at the pub, lolls around the house. Dolly is only valued by men for her sexual attraction until it fades: “Men looked at her the way they looked at horses” page 19
Ted – one year older than Rose. Eventually leaves home and goes to Adelaide and dies in a sauna trying to lose weight.
Rose – Rosemary – Is the mainstay of the house and family. Because of the heavy burden she takes on early in life she comes to resent her whole family, but especially her indolent mother. She suffers from anorexia nervosa several times but eventually overcomes it to produce a baby, Wax Harry.
Chubb - The youngest rather lazy, eventually apprenticed to a butcher.
Toby Raven - Rose’s first boyfriend – a journalist and pretentious writer. It takes a while for Rose to see through him, but she rejects him and the false pompous society he aspires to gain acceptance.
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