Owen Marshall's short stories have many qualities which make them entertaining and , . interesting to read. The strengths in his writing include the use of familiar New Zealand childhood settings, his evocation of the painful transition from childhood to adolescence, a theme of many of his stories, and also his use of potent symbols which resonate through the stories.
The stories I studied were all set in the small-town New Zealand landscape of the 1950s. Marshall manages to bring back the innocence of that pre-television time, when children played outside for their entertainment and the house was a place occupied mainly by the adults. In the story, "The Master of Big Jingles", the action is set only in the 'waxy profusion' of the fennel which is "pressing in on the town" and the fennel hut which the boys have built. The boys play childish games like snail races in this hut and it is a place of escapism, adventure and friendship.
In "The Ace of Diamonds Gang", the world of the children is the world of a small town of Boy Scouts, the library, parent imposed curfews and the all important children's gang. The narrator says, in an authorial aside, "So the Ace of Diamonds gang seems my full boyhood". It is clear that the gang members, although they see themselves as avengers and adventurers and fancy themselves as the sort of heroes they read about in their comics and Boys' Own adventure books, are an innocent and harmless group of boys.
In his stories Marshall skilfully examines the experiences of growing up, the often painful and confusing process involved in moving from childhood into adolescence. "The Master of Big Jingles" tells a story of the loss of friendship and the problems of growing up. The main character...