This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Neighbours” (1985)  by Tim Winton. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Tim Winton (b. 1960) is an Australian writer. He has written novels, children’s books, plays, non-fiction writing, and short stories. His best-known novels include Cloudstreet, Dirt Music, and Breath. He has won numerous literary awards. The short story “Neighbours” was first published in the anthology Australian Short Stories No. 10 (1985).

Excerpt from the study guide: 

When the wife becomes pregnant and the neighbors find out, she has mixed feelings about their excessive attention: “the young woman felt flattered, claustrophobic, grateful, peeved”. This might show that she is thankful for her neighbors’ care, but at the same time, she is not used to the bold and overly-familiar manner of the neighbors. Similarly, when the husband starts planting vegetables in the garden, he feels annoyed by the neighbors’ comments, but he takes their advice anyway: “the young man resented the interference, but he took careful note of what was said”. This shows that the husband also has mixed feelings about the neighbors’ nosiness and advice. 

The couple “felt superior and proud when their parents came to visit and to cast shocked glances across the fence”. This line can have a twofold interpretation. On the one hand, the couple can feel superiority towards the neighbors when their parents compare their way of living to that of the neighbors, as the neighbors appear as uncivilized to the parents as they did to the couple at first. The second interpretation is that the couple feels superiority towards their parents, who do not know the kindness of the neighbors and do not understand the value of a close community. This shows that the couple has learned to empathize with their neighbors and look past their differences.

The husband starts crying when he sees the neighbors cheering for the birth of his son which shows he is a sensitive man who cherishes the love and support that can be found within a close-knit community.

Throughout the story, the couple develops from people who are wary of others who they see as different and whose behavior they do not understand, to people who value the importance of a close community. The couple appreciates the acts of kindness that the neighbors do for them and begins doing the same for others.

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