Minimum of Two by Tim Winton A Brief Analysis

Minimum of Two is an Anthology [collection of works] of 14 Short Stories

Winton set the stories in post WWII Perth, WA.  The basis of the stories deals with relationships under stress and hardship.  Winton’s style is minimalist with a concern about the metaphysics of life itself.  What unites Winton’s characters is their common humanity.  The degree to which the characters succeed in responding to challenges varies considerably across the 14 stories.  Winton’s characters are ordinary people who do not use a sophisticated vocabulary.  The narrative often refers to characters in generic terms as ‘the boy’, ‘the girl’ or ‘the Man’ which shifts the focus away from the individual and more on the universal dimensions of their experiences.  Winton’s style withholds details that remain unsaid forcing the reader to guess at a character’s deeper reasons for acting in such a way.  Tensions and conflicts are not resolved but manipulated by Winton suggesting that the characters have an ongoing struggle for survival and contentment.

The Title

Is from the story “Minimum of Two” which refers to the insultingly short sentence Blakey receives for raping Greta.  His sentence was 5 years with a minimum of 2 years before parole.  The irony is that while Blakey does not suffer in prison as the perpetrator of sexual assault; Greta the victim ends up with a life sentence after the rape.

The Meaning of the Epigraph [an inscription or quote at the beginning of a book]

The Epigraph points to the central preoccupation of the stories.  Winton shows the contradiction that adding one and one should be two not leading back to one.  The stories point to the constant need and struggle of people to form relationships that effectively make a ‘minimum of two’.  However, in many of the stories the characters are unable to come together with partners, families or friends and often remain isolated from one another, hence still one.

The Stories suggest that we must not be alone

That life, not mere survival, is dependent on our ability to operate as part of a relationship with other people.  We live our lives as wives, husbands, sons, daughters, best friends and parents.  Those who think of themselves as “islands” do not survive.

Key Issues

  1. Experience of Loss – Winton explores the destructive effects of loss on people’s lives and their reaction to that loss.  Many characters internalise loss making them isolated and unable to communicate effectively with others.
  2. The past and persistence of memory – The past haunts characters because of their persistent memory.  Their past prohibits and burdens them so they have difficulty moving forward.
  3. Movement of time through life – The characters experience markers of their childhood, puberty, adulthood, marriage, fatherhood, death and mortality.
  4. Buoyancy of water – The capacity to float in water functions as a metaphor for emotional resilience.
  5. Negotiating gender roles – The text questions the role of men in the home and workplace and its feelings of dislocation.
  6. A sense of place versus desire to travel – Many characters have a strong sense of place especially where they have grown up which often is near water.
  7. Moments of revelation and acceptance – Some stories end in despair while others find moments of understanding and acceptance of their situation.
  8. Sources of moral truth – The central character of the “Everyman” is summoned by death but the text suggests it is up to the individual to make their own moral choices in life.
  9. The other world within this world – Some characters gain a glimpse of religious awakening.

Key Imagery

  1. Blood
  2. Water
  3. Fire
  4. Air
  5. Earth

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