The Riders by Tim Winton Essay

Throughout the novel Scully has many relationships but the two substantial ones are those of his wife and daughter. Scully is able to care for both these characters with the same amount of love. He is whiling to sacrifice whatever it takes to please them. Though he is blinded by love and not able to see that his wife is not right for him, he reader is shown her true colours through other characters who paint a different picture of her than Scully does.

Scully’s two main relationships, which are Jennifer his wife and their daughter Billie, were the people he loved most in his life even though he was closer to his daughter than his wife. Throughout the story Tim Winton is consistently informing the reader on how Scully is always trying to please his wife and daughter. ‘You followed, you would follow her anywhere’, (Winton, 1995: p 41). This is what was always in Scully’s mind about his wife Jennifer. These thoughts show how he would go out of his way to please his wife. He has done a series of menial, back breaking jobs to support his wife’s lifestyle of painting and writing. Scully also does a similar thing for his daughter Billie. Following the birth of Billie, Scully took time off from work and looked after his daughter (Winton, 1995: p 39). Which expresses how committed he was for his daughter Billie.

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During the time he he took of work, Scully developed a very good relationship with his daughter. This resulted in him spending more time with his daughter than his wife he taught Billie how to swim, ride a bike and how to read and write(P.83). Scully would spend less time with Jennifer due to her being more committed to going out and doing arts. She felt ‘as if he was a tree in her window, something she was looking through to a more to a more brilliant world beyond ‘(Winton, 1995: p 288). Though Scully loves both Billie and Jennifer, ‘no one loves him the way Billie does because she knows there is good in his heart’(Winton, 1995: p 85). The relationships Scully has throughout the novel were seen differently from his perception by other characters.

Billie and Jennifer’s portrayal in The Riders by Tim Winton is mostly through other characters in the novel. We never get to find out what Jennifer is thinking throughout the novel we just get people’s views on her. Billie’s character is told in third person for most of the story. When Tim Winton first introduces Billie she won’t talk. Though the reader is aware, and Scully is aware, that Billie understands why her mother left. As Scully spoke to Alan on the phone about the whereabouts of Jennifer, ‘Billie looked up at him knowingly. She knew. He could see it, but what could he do beat it out of her ‘? (Winton, 1995: p 106)By portraying Billie in this third person form Tim Winton is cleverly leaving the reader in frustration of wanting to know more, wondering why Billie won’t talk (“The Riders by Tim Winton.” Lynley Stace. Web. 24 May 2012.).

The third person narrative of Billie shifts when Scully loses more control. ‘Billie prayed for an angel, for a whirl wind, a fire, a giant crack in the world that might save them from tomorrow , from the other side of the cloud’(Winton, 1995: p 253). The reader sees the thinking of Billie other than Scully’s madness. This is necessary, for the fact that the thoughts of a madman would turn into something far less rational. Tim Winton keeps the mystery alive by, by never letting the reader meet Jennifer. So the reader can only know about her through Scully’s and other characters’ recollection of her.

When Scully realised that Jennifer didn’t turn up with Billie at the airport he had the belief that ‘she wouldn’t be that cruel, surely’ (Winton, 1995: p 107). This point of view Scully has of Jennifer shows her to be too nice to leave him and Billie alone. However Alex a character from the novel thought that, ‘she was a bomb waiting to go off on him’ (Winton, 1995: p 163). Through observation of Alex, Scully was probably too trusting and that Jennifer was always likely to take off at anytime. This leaves the reader in suspense on who to believe due to contrasting tales from Alex and Scully. Tim Winton uses the third person and the retelling of a character through other characters wisely to build up suspense and anticipation and even frustration for the reader.

Tim Winton brings forward the themes of trust and Self identity to portray the relationships that Scully has with Billie and Jennifer. This is done putting forward the question to the reader how well can you ever know about the characteristics of someone. Scully believes that if he sets off to Europe in an unplanned mission to find his wife that he would find her waiting for him. Scully trusted so much that he felt Jennifer would just not leave him ‘if it hadn’t been for the pregnancy she had stayed indefinitely, he knew.’(Winton, 1995: p 109) Scully was able to notice that something was not right through Billie’s behaviour when she could not talk. ‘She was usually a chatterbox, you couldn’t shut her up usually , and she could handle a small hitch, ride out a bit of a complication with some showy bravery, but this.

Jennifer felt she had artistic talent however her art teacher Alex thought otherwise. He believed that to be artistic was something you were born with (Winton, 1995: p 157). This is also similar to how Jennifer felt like Australia was to plain of a country compared to Europe. Jennifer seemed to believe that being in Europe would somehow improve her writing and artistic skills. Tim Winton describes Jennifer as a character who is lost on what she wants in life nothing satisfies her and is always seeking for more. ‘Well, she was bored with her job, and restless, and I was game for a change’ (Winton, 1995: p 40). This is one of many statements spoken by Scully that show us the kind of spontaneous person Jennifer was.

Billie and Jennifer are two major parts of Scully’s life so when Jennifer disappeared Scully feels like his life has been destroyed. This is mostly due to the fact he was unable see who Jennifer really was like other characters. But then again, the other characters may well not be seeing who Jennifer really is. Tim Winton is able to make the reader raise all these questions simply by hiding characters thoughts. In the case of Billie why doesn’t she just tell her father why her mother didn’t come on the flight with her? But this is all disclosed by her silence and the third person’s narrative of her. Scully is a family man who will do anything for his wife and daughter, but the question is would they be able to do the same.



“The Riders by Tim Winton.” Lynley Stace. Web. 24 May 2012. <>.

Winton, Tim. The Riders. New York: Scribner, 1995. Print.

Bright, Robyn Shean. Tim Winton the Riders. Australia: Picador. Print.


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