How does the composer, John Marsden, use a variety of techniques to reveal the struggle involved in Marina’s journey towards wholeness? The novel, ‘So Much to Tell You’ by John Marsden explores the concept of growth and change through the character, Marina, and her struggle to become whole. Throughout the course of the book, Marina develops from someone who is so psychologically wounded that she is unable to engage with members of her community, to someone who experiences healing and demonstrates the capacity to reach out to others.
The contrast of Marina’s character from the beginning of the novel to the end portrays her development during her journey to heal. The composer uses techniques to convey Marina’s growth and change throughout the novel. In the early stages of the novel, it is evident that Marina has an extremely wounded psyche due to conflict within her family. This leads to her having a resultant lack of spiritual wholeness, which she continually struggles with to heal.
The damaged nature of her psyche is highlighted in the recount of Marina “Looking at the fragmented stars” on Ann’s doona and Ann’s dialogue, “They do fit together” foreshadows the ultimate reintegration of Marina’s psychological health. When Marina describes her “grey school blankets” which are sombre, lifeless and boring, even though there is an underlying tone of yearning, she is ultimately characterising herself as boring and lifeless also.
Throughout Marina’s journey to wholeness we see many stages of struggle and conflict, and many of these struggles originate from Marina’s own lack of self-worth and her diminished ability (in the early stages of the novel) to communicate. This fearfulness of communication is conveyed through the rhetorical question she uses when she refers to the possibility of her teacher reading her journal: “What if he reads them? If he doesn’t keep his promise…I am lost. In this particular quote the metaphorical use of the word ‘lost’ highlights her fear of engagement with others and indicates that fear is an obstacle she has to overcome if she is to heal, grow and adjust to the way her life is changing and continue on her journey to wholeness.
Marina’s struggle with communication and continued lack of wholeness is very present when Marina refers to her tennis practice: “I sat under a tree and watched…watched all the tennis players”. This description of Marina passively watching a tennis game, rather than actively participating in the game, symbolizes her inability to participate in life and also acts as a ontrast between the warm interactions displayed by the other girls and the social isolation Marina feels. This particular incident highlights the psychological damage that has taken place in Marina as there is a contrast between her present inaction and her recount of her past involvement in the lines, “In primary school, I played sport a lot and was quite good at it…I beat the other girls by miles”. Marina is characterised as steadily accepting awareness of the fact that other girls also struggle psychological problems and this moves her further along the path towards wholeness.
Marina’s intense reflective tone in the lines, “It didn’t occur to me that there might be other people who are feeling really bad. Little dark islands floating in the shadows of the school” captures her recognition that other people also feel socially isolated. This recognition is suggested through the metaphor of the “little dark islands” which is intratextually connected with Marina’s use of an implied metaphor of an island to describe her own state of mine at the beginning of the novel: “the words break over my desk in soft waves”. Paradoxically Marina’s realisation that other people also feel isolated helps to make her feel less isolated.
Marina’s relationship with her father is a major struggle that she has to face on her journey towards wholeness. Marina’s description of her father as a poisonous presence and the use of a descriptive simile in the line ‘like a radioactive cloud’ represents him as toxic and dangerous, but this is contradicted when she shows a glimmer of empathy in the question, “What’s it like where he is? ”. This continued emotional uncertainty of Marina’s as she vainly attempts to clarify whether she loves or hates her father, is a major theme running through the novel and the evolution of her relationship with her father is crucial to her personal growth.
Through the progression of highly emotional journal entries, we begin to learn that solely, Marina feels guilty for putting her father in jail. When she makes the comparison between scared and scarred: “I just realised how alike those words are” we learn that under all her barriers she is still scarred emotionally because of her father’s “brooding, quiet and ugly silences”. When Marina states that it is “really important to know whether he hates me or not” we realise that in every way she is imprisoned by the unknown presence in her mind, which is her father.
We can acknowledge affirmation of this when she “draws stripes, which aren’t stripes at all, but are bars, prison bars” on the sand and can understand it as a symbol of Marina being trapped by vestiges of mistrust, fear and self-deprecation. When Marina arrived at Warrington she didn’t speak. However, as she progressively begins to address her struggles she becomes more accustomed to expressing herself in her journal and soon finds her “voice”. It is through her journal that she initially allows herself to express her pain, release her deepest thoughts and continue on her journey to wholeness.
When Marina gives Cathy a flower: “I nearly backed out, but I didn’t. I placed it on her bed”, it was the first time Marina had reached out physically towards someone. This is a signpost of her mental health and is the first physical sign of her breaking down her self-imposed barrier. In expansion of Marina growing in health, the weekend at Mr Lindell’s, when Marina “picks up the ball and throws it back”, she visibly interacts with others and shows signs of progression on her journey towards wholeness.
When Marina expresses that she “scored the wrong family” she discovers that not all families are destructive and this allows her to release her initial complete hatred towards all relationships. When Marina says that she wants her father to “hold her and forgive her” she shows stark contrast to her original aversion to close proximity at the beginning of the novel. Her motivation to meet her father grows greater day by day and it eventually is much greater than her fear.
She expresses anxiety in the lines, “I keep imagining him seeing me and then his face going cold and hard” but soon disregards this and continues on her path towards wholeness as she states that she gets “courage” when she reads his letter. Once Marina begins to accept and let her father back into her mind, she begins to travel in great leaps along her journey to wholeness. At the end of the novel, the intense moment between Marina and her father (so much so that the “air was swollen”) releases Marina from her internal prison, and allows her to speak to her father and say: “I’ve got so much to tell you”.