Owen Marshall’s ‘Mr Van Gogh’ addresses the inevitable issue of marginalisation of an individual. Through language features he influences the reader to reflect and consider action of the attitudes towards the socially marginalised. The social rejection of an individual is described through the voice of the town bully, and the cowardly acts of the narrator. Set in a small town in New Zealand it serves as a microcosm of contemporary society. Marshall presents a parable to educate the reader so they understand that there is only inclusion when there is exclusion. Marshall aims to influence the reader to take action and act in ways that challenge the universal social norms.
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By destroying Frank’s house Marshall symbolises the destruction of Frank’s individuality. Marshall shows the community is unconsciously making efforts to destroy any forms of individuality. In, ‘It rose like a phoenix in its own flames, and he wasn’t part of it anymore... the colour, and purpose, and vision of Mr Van Gogh had gone out of himself and was there on the walls about us”, the listing of abstract nouns accentuates to the reader creating a link between Frank and Van Gogh - they both dedicated their lives to their passion. The relation to the mythical creature, phoenix, certify the resurrection of Frank; his soul is carried through his work, his house. This Classical allusion is used to demonstrate to the reader the symbolic aspects of the house, such as Frank’s originality. The simile in, ‘the house collapsed like an old elephant in the drought surrounded by so many enemies’, compares the townsfolk to scavengers - they are seen as cowards, only attacking when their prey seems weak. Marshall uses this because elephants symbolise sensitivity; the relation to an ‘elephant in drought’ underlines the vulnerability of the house whilst Frank is not present to protect his individuality. The author positions the reader to feel sympathy and horror