November 2, 2009
Jellicoe Road Response
I tend to think that characters are reflections of their authors, but in reading interviews with Melina Marchetta, I am led to believe this is not the case for her, at least not with Taylor Markham. However, I do believe that Marchetta chooses her characters very specifically.
Throughout the book, Taylor is introduced and developed as a character with remarkable depth and insight, despite her tender years, and I think this has a lot to do with the way that Marchetta views maturity and coming-of-age. I get the impression that in the Australian culture, adolescence is viewed much more as a passing phase of life, rather than the kind of “holding place” between childhood and adulthood that it is in the United States today. This can be seen quite clearly in the tradition Aboriginal “walkabout”: the time during a young man’s life when he goes into the wilderness to prove himself among the raw forces of nature and find his identity along the way. His safe return to his tribe indicates his successful passage into manhood, and there are many reflections of this kind of transition throughout Jellicoe Road. For example, the leadership of the Jellicoe School Houses appears to be a reflection on the leader’s maturity and the level of respect others have for him or her. Like the “walkabout”, Marchetta uses this illustration of leadership to demonstrate the passage from youth to adulthood. With this image in mind, I think it is interesting to note that while Taylor is content to act as a leader, in many ways she resents her position, feeling unqualified to deal with her students and often unwilling to do so as well. Marchetta sums up part of Taylor’s dilemma by explaining the nature of being a teenager: “I think the age of seventeen is a powerful time in a person’s life because it could be the first time you make the really big decisions on your own rather than having to rely on your...