Neighbours-Summary-Analysis-and-Question-Answers-Grade-12-English-Section-II-Literature-Unit-1-Short-Stories
Grade 12: English_Section Two: Literature

Unit 1: Short stories

Lesson 1. Neighbours by Tim Winton.

Introduction

The story entitled ‘Neighbours’ by Tim Winton is a story about a newly married couple living in a multicultural and multilingual suburb neighbourhood. It shows that cultural and linguistic barriers cannot stop people from bestowing (imparting) love and compassion. This story has been taken from Migrants of Australia edited by Harwood Lawler. Tim Winton, full name Timothy John Winton, (b. 1960) is an Australian author of both adult and children’s novels that deal with both the experience of life in and the landscape of his native country.

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Characters:

1. Newly wedded young couple - names are not mentioned just to give universal meaning.

2. Macedonian family – living next door on the left to the newly wedded young couple.

3. A widower from Poland - living next door on the right to the newly wedded young couple.

Summary and Thematic Analysis of "Neighbours" by Tim Winton:

'Neighbours' by Tim Winton is a very short story about a young couple moving into a new neighbourhood. They notice that their new street was full of European migrants. It makes the newly-weds feel like sojourners (people who reside temporarily in a place) in a foreign land in the beginning. Next door on the left lives a Macedonian family. On the right, lives a widower from Poland. They do not feel quite at home in the beginning, always having to listen to the loud conversations of their next door neighbour, a Macedonian family and the hammering of their other next door neighbour, a Polish widower. At first they only see the strange and sometimes disgusting customs of their new neighbourhood.

The young man and woman had lived all their lives in the expansive outer suburbs where good neighbours were seldom seen and never heard. It took six months for the newcomers to comprehend the fact that their neighbours were not murdering each other, merely talking. Relations were uncomfortable for many months. The Macedonians raise eyebrows at the late hour at which the newcomers rise in the mornings. The young man senses their disapproval at his staying home to write his thesis while his wife works in a hospital.

After getting used to their new surrounding the young couple starts liking their neighbours and notice that they aren't that bad at all. In the autumn, the young couple clear rubbish from their backyard and turn and manure the soil. They plant leeks, onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broad beans and this causes the neighbours to come to the fence and offer advice about spacing, hilling, mulching (covering with decaying leaves). Not long after, the young man and woman build a henhouse, the neighbours watch it fall down. Then, the Polish widower slides through the fence uninvited and rebuilds it for them. But, they could not understand a word he said.

As autumn merges into winter and the vermilion sunsets are followed by sudden, dark dusks touched with the smell of wood smoke and the sound of roosters crowing day's end, the young couple find themselves smiling back at the neighbours. They offer heads of cabbage and take gifts of grappa (a strong alcoholic drink from Italy, made from grapes) and firewood. The young man works steadily at his thesis on the development of the twentieth century novel. He cooks dinners for his wife and listens to her stories of eccentric (unusual) patients and hospital incompetence. Now, they can freely walk in the street, without any kind of hesitations.

In the winter they keep ducks, big, silent muscovies that stand about in the rain growing fat. In the spring the Macedonian family show them how to slaughter and to pluck and to dress.
When the woman becomes pregnant the neighbours immediately find out about it and start giving the young couple presents and good tips. By late summer the woman next door has knitted the baby a suit, complete with booties and beanie. The young woman feels pleased, enclosed, thankful, and annoyed. The Polish widower next door has almost finished his two-car garage. The young man could not believe that a man without a car would do such a thing, and one evening as he was considering making a complaint about the noise, the Polish man comes over with barrowful of wood scraps (pieces) for their fire.

At last, the young woman delivers a baby boy and the young man hears shouting outside. He goes to the back door and sees his neighbours cheering and celebrating the birth. It makes him weep. He realizes that the twentieth century novel had not prepared him for this. The couple isn't used to that friendliness and is really surprised and pleased when the whole neighbourhood celebrates the arrival of the new baby.

The story shows how people from different countries can live peacefully together, though they may have different lifestyles. There are a lot of migrants in Australia who moved there because of various reasons, like war, the Great Depression, political reasons and just because they started loving the country. The story reveals the fact that there may be misunderstanding among people of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds in new settlements. But the story also states that we can easily overcome these problems through mutual understanding, sharing and cooperation. The humanly qualities like love, compassion, sympathy, empathy, kindness, helpfulness, and many more are found in every individual. These are binding forces that help to create harmony and unity in any society. The sense of respect towards others’ culture and lifestyle is also important to have good relationships among people from different origins and communities. Therefore, the linguistic and cultural barriers do not create any obstacles in human relationship. In other words, we can transcend (go beyond) such barriers through interaction and dialogue.

Question Answers of the short story "Neighbours" by Tim Winton.

Understanding the text:

Answer the following questions.

a. Describe how the young couple’s house looked like.

Answer: The young couple’s house was small, but it's high ceilings and paned windows gave it the feel of an elegant cottage. From his study window, the young man could see out over the rooftops and used car yards the Moreton Bay figs in the park where they walked their dog.

b. How did the young couple identify their neighbours in the beginning of their arrival?

Answer: The young couple were uncomfortable for many months. They were disturbed by the strange behaviours of their neighbours in the beginning. It took six months for them to comprehend the fact that their neighbours were not as odd, unfriendly and disgusting as they thought in the beginning.

c. How did the neighbours help the young couple in the kitchen garden?

Answer: In the autumn, the young couple cleared rubbish from their backyard and turned and manured the soil. They planted leeks, onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broad beans and this caused the neighbours to come to the fence and offer advice about spacing, hilling, mulching (covering with decaying leaves).

d. Why were the people in the neighbourhood surprised at the role of the young man and his wife in their family?

Answer: The young man stayed home to write his thesis while his wife worked in a hospital. This made the people in the neighbourhood surprise at the role of the young man and his wife in their family.

e. How did the neighbours respond to the woman’s pregnancy?

Answer: When the woman became pregnant the neighbours immediately found out about it and started giving the young couple presents and good tips. By late summer the woman next door has knitted the baby a suit, complete with booties and beanie.

f. Why did the young man begin to weep at the end of the story?

Answer: At last, the young woman delivered a baby boy and the young man heard shouting outside. He went to the back door and saw his neighbours cheering and celebrating the birth. It made him weep.

g. Why do you think the author did not characterize the persons in the story with proper names?

Answer: The author did not characterize the persons in the story with proper names to generalize the case that is stated in the story. This kind of experience is not limited to a particular area or locality. This can be found anywhere in this new context with people migrating from one place to another for new settlements.

Reference to the context:

a. The story shows that linguistic and cultural barriers do not create any obstacle in human relationship. Cite some examples from the story where the neighbours have transcended such barriers.

Answer: After getting used to their new surrounding the young couple starts liking their neighbours and notice that they aren't that bad at all. In the autumn, the young couple clear rubbish from their backyard and turn and manure the soil. They plant leeks, onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broad beans and this causes the neighbours to come to the fence and offer advice about spacing, hilling, mulching (covering with decaying leaves). Not long after, the young man and woman build a henhouse, the neighbours watch it fall down. Then, the Polish widower slides through the fence uninvited and rebuilds it for them. But, they could not understand a word he said. In the spring the Macedonian family show them how to slaughter and to pluck and to dress.

When the woman becomes pregnant the neighbours immediately find out about it and start giving the young couple’s presents and good tips. By late summer the woman next door has knitted the baby a suit, complete with booties and beanie. The young woman feels pleased, enclosed, thankful, annoyed. The Polish widower next door has almost finished his two-car garage. The young man could not believe that a man without a car would do such a thing, and one evening as he was considering making a complaint about the noise, the Polish man comes over with barrowful of wood scraps (pieces) for their fire.

These examples from the story show that the neighbours have transcended linguistic and cultural barriers barriers.

b. The last sentence of the story reads “The twentieth-century novel had not prepared him for this.” In your view, what differences did the young man find between twentieth-century novels and human relations?

Answer: In the story, the young man envisions differences between the twentieth-century novels and human relations. He was staying at home to complete his thesis on twentieth-century novels. So he was definitely obsessed with its characteristics like isolation, detachment, interior monologue and the desire of the authors to penetrate into the minds of the characters in their literary worlds to get the truth. But when he encountered the real life situation in a new environment with people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds then he realized the importance of interpersonal and cross-cultural interaction to have smooth and sincere communication among people to tackle any adverse situations unlike the twentieth-century novels that simply ignored these aspects. His thinking about human life was broadened and he understood the importance of communal (collective) feelings.

c. A Nepali proverb says “Neighbors are companions for wedding procession as well as for funeral procession.” Does this proverb apply in the story? Justify.

Answer: The Nepali proverb, “Neighbors are companions for wedding procession as well as for funeral procession” is quite appropriate to be discussed in the given story. In the beginning of the story the young couple were uncomfortable for many months. They were disturbed by the strange behaviours of their neighbours in the beginning. It took six months for them to comprehend the fact that their neighbours were not as odd, unfriendly and disgusting as they thought in the beginning.

Then, they started sharing their things with each other. The young couple were advised by the neighbours about how to plant vegetables and were also helped to make a henhouse by the polish neighbours without being asked to do the same. When the woman became pregnant the neighbours immediately found out about it and started giving the young couple presents and good tips. By late summer the woman next door has knitted the baby a suit, complete with booties and beanie. They also celebrated the arrival of a new baby boy in their own ways. Therefore, we can say that the linguistic and cultural barriers do not create any obstacles in human relationships of people from different cultures, communities, and countries and they can live peacefully together, although they may have a different lifestyle.

d. The author has dealt with an issue of multiculturalism in the story. Why do you think multiculturalism has become a major issue in the present world?

Answer: Multiculturalism means the practice of giving importance to all cultures in a society. It has become a major issue in the present world because of the movement of people from one area to another for diverse reasons. The author has beautifully dealt with the issue of multiculturalism in the story.The story shows how people from different countries can live peacefully together, though they may have different lifestyles. There are a lot of migrants in Australia who moved there because of various reasons, like war, the Great Depression, political reasons and just because they started loving the country.

The story reveals the fact that there may be misunderstanding among people of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds in new settlements. But the story also states that we can easily overcome these problems through mutual understanding, sharing and cooperation. The humanly qualities like love, compassion, sympathy, empathy, kindness, helpfulness, and many more are found in every individual. These are binding forces that help to create harmony and unity in any society. The sense of respect towards others’ culture and lifestyle is also important to have good relationships among people from different origins and communities. Therefore, the linguistic and cultural barriers do not create any obstacles in human relationship. In other words, we can transcend (go beyond) such barriers through interaction and dialogue.

Reference beyond the text:

a. Write an essay on Celebration of Childbirth in my Community.

Answer: Childbirth means the process of giving birth to a child or baby. It is celebrated in every community though there may be differences in the conduct. In my community which is basically dominated by Hindus it is celebrated in a pious manner. Few months before the birth of the baby the rituals start. Pregnant women are encouraged in Hinduism to surround themselves whenever possible, with soft, sweet music to help the foetus develop its senses. To further develop the senses, Hindu people surround the pregnant woman with pleasant pictures, especially a picture of Lord Krishna. Gifts usually include saris, jewellery, make-up and perfume are given to the pregnant woman. Certain social taboos are also there in our community that have to be followed strictly. Emotional attachment is found in our society and it helps to minimize the pain and suffering of the future mother.

When the baby is born, it is customary to record the exact time the child was born as the time the baby was born is an indication of certain things and it is the prerequisite to make the horoscope of the newly born baby. For example, it indicates certain initials that the baby's name must begin with, and it is linked to signs of the Zodiac. On the sixth day the child traditionally wears new clothes for the first time. The baby is bathed, then dressed in all new attire and the red dot is put on. The first visit of the baby's life should be to the temple.

The naming ceremony is usually conducted on the ninth day. The aunt carries the baby and the priest officially names the baby. This is seen as a record of the birth. When the baby is first given cereal, there is a tradition whereby milk and rice pudding is made. The dish is symbolically fed to the child for the first time. Family and friends are invited to witness this event and a celebration is made of it. After a year, baby’s hair is usually cut to cleanse the child as a part of the ritual.

Thus, it is clear that celebration of childbirth is an integral part of our custom that is based on religious, social, cultural and historical points of views. But, we cannot deny the fact that because of changes in the thoughts and views of people in the 21st century, the way of celebration has been changed accordingly to be suitable for the changing environment. Therefore, we find some sort of modification in celebration, but the overall essence is still the same.

b. Do the people in your community respond with similar reactions upon the pregnancy and childbirth as depicted in the story? Give a couple of examples.

Answer: Yes, the people in our community also respond with almost similar reactions upon pregnancy and childbirth as depicted in the story. As mentioned in the story, people in our community also shower good wishes to the pregnant woman by offering clothes, ornaments, nutritious food items and blessings. People show their emotional attachment with the would be mother. Some relatives also knit clothes to be given to the newly born baby as a symbol of love and affection. (Please go through the answer of question no. (a) under the topic, reference beyond the text for more details.)

- ©drg/Indra Bhusal/Jhalak Rana

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