Potato Country by Kirsty Marillier
In Potato Country by Kirsty Marillier we have the theme of struggle, conflict, sadness, racism, change and hope. Narrated in the first person by Marillier herself the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Marillier may be exploring the theme of struggle. Marillier’s family struggles to get by and her father wants to work as a teacher and not as a labourer. While her mother is sad that they have to struggle despite the promises of happiness she has received from other members of her family should they move to Australia. This may be important as it suggests that for some immigrants Australia is not what it could be. It just that the Marillier’s are one of these type of immigrants. They only find happiness through escape. With the Marillier girls playing games they might have played in South Africa. If anything the Marillier’s are underdogs in Australia.
There is also a sense that the Marillier’s are internally conflicted. They haven’t really adapted to their situation and some of their neighbours are afraid of them due to their skin colour. While other neighbours’ view them as no more than a curiosity because of their brown skin. It is as though the dreams that the Marillier’s have do not reach fruition until Marillier’s father gets a job in his preferred field, teaching. This too may be important as life changes for the Marillier’s. They have more money and better prospects. However it is interesting that Kristy never felt poor. Though she did tire of eating potatoes. The sadness that Mrs Marillier felt is also important as he highlights how deeply let down she feels when it comes to following her dreams of a better life in Australia. Gone are the wishful promises her family told her about. Replaced by sorrow and a difficult life. A life more difficult than the one the Marillier’s had in South Africa.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that Mr Marillier is a teacher could suggest that through hard work one can achieve their dreams. Something Mr Marillier does eventually do when he is hired as a teacher in Australia. Mrs Marillier’s dedication to her family also pays off for the family. She has acted as a rock when times have been difficult and she has struggled herself. In reality she has never given up. As mentioned the girls playing games that have an origin in South Africa are significant as they highlight not only the girls’ desires to escape from life in Australia but more importantly they have not forgotten their roots and the struggles they encountered while living in South Africa.
The end of the story is interesting as Marillier has a message for other girls who were like her. She hopes they will not change and that they will continue to follow their dreams regardless of any adversity that might encounter. This is significant as it suggests that despite the hardships Marillier endured she has never given up. She has continued to dream. Just as her father had when it came to him finding a job in teaching. Marillier believes that every girl needs to keep the fire in their heart in order to succeed no matter how difficult circumstance might be. That life will get better and they too can have some of the magic that Marillier experienced.