Seventy-Two Derwents

by

Cate Kennedy

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Seventy-Two Derwents can help.

Seventy-Two Derwents Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tyler tells the reader that they are reading her journal. Her schoolteacher, Mrs Carlyle, has given the students these journals and asked them to update them on their own. Mrs Carlyle adds that she may read the journals, but promises that they will always be kept anonymous.
Tyler begins by indicating the personal nature of the narrative to follow, revealing that it was not originally intended to be read by others. The reader will find a deeply private account of her life and thoughts.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Mrs Carlyle tells Tyler about her two pet budgies. She promises that if they ever lay eggs, she will give one of their babies to Tyler after giving it time to mature. Tyler imagines how she would care for the birds.
Tyler begins her narrative by recalling a moment that made her feel special: her teacher singling her out for a special job, caring for birds, which requires maturity.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Mrs Carlyle explains that the mother bird pulls her own feathers out to line the inside of the nest, and adds that she put soft things inside the cage, but that the mother bird continued to pull out her feathers regardless, drawing on “instinct.”
By describing how the mother birds willingly harm themselves in order to prepare a good home for their children, Mrs Carlyle gives Tyler a picture of maternal care as an act of instinctive personal sacrifice.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Tyler writes that, if Mrs Carlyle does give her one of the baby budgies, she will name it Alicia, and she imagines trying to teach the bird to say its name. Mrs Carlyle cautions her that she’s not yet sure whether the birds will lay eggs, and she asks Tyler not to tell her classmates about her promise, since they might get jealous. Tyler is nevertheless very excited by the thought of the baby bird.
Tyler has already flashed forward, imagining how she would care for her pet bird and the sort of relationship that might develop between her and the pet. She is excited by the thought of herself as a caregiver with special responsibility for another life.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Get the entire Seventy-Two Derwents LitChart as a printable PDF.
Seventy-Two Derwents PDF
Later, Tyler’s mother asks Tyler for her opinion of her boyfriend, Shane. Tyler responds noncommittally. When Shane arrives for dinner, Tyler’s mother brags about her homemade chips and asks Tyler to affirm that her chips are the best.
The first time readers encounter Tyler’s mother, they see her asking for her daughter to affirm both the quality of her chips and the quality of her boyfriend, insistently seeking Tyler’s approval for her choices.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Tyler recalls an incident when she asked her mother for money to buy a hamburger. Her mother insisted that Tyler wait in the kitchen while she prepared a burger from scratch, then insistently pressed Tyler to agree that the homemade burger was better than what she would have gotten from McDonald’s. Tyler writes in her journal that she has learned to “just say yes.”
Tyler’s flashback is unexpected, and seemingly has little to do with the dinner narrative she has just begun. However, the burger story illustrates a central dynamic of Tyler’s home life: her mother relies on her to assuage her own insecurities, ignoring Tyler’s own desires in the process.
Themes
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Tyler recalls Mrs Carlyle telling her class that training a dog to behave, or training a bird to talk, requires repetition so that the animal learns to respond to cues. Tyler reflects that the same technique might work on humans, as well.
Though she neglects to spell it out, Tyler implies that the way her mother treats her makes her feel like a trained animal in that her mother expects her to merely respond to cues on demand.
Themes
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Related Quotes
At dinner, Shane watches The Simpsons with Tyler while her mother prepares the meal. He asks her questions about her age, and prods her about whether or not she has a boyfriend, which makes her uncomfortable.
Shane and Tyler are alone for the first time in the story, and Shane immediately begins exhibiting sexually predatory behavior. Tyler attempts to focus on the cartoons in order to distract herself.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Tyler writes that she doesn’t have or want a boyfriend—what she wants is a set of seventy-two Derwent artist’s pencils. Her friend Georgia from school has a set, and Tyler describes their high quality and texture. She recalls taking her grandmother to the art store and asking for them as a birthday present, then she lists the evocative names for the pencils’ different colors. She imagines sharing a set of her own with Georgia, and asking Mrs Carlyle to use her knife to scrape off some of their paint to write her own name on them.
Tyler reveals her deepest personal desire, which becomes a major occupation of the story: a high-quality set of artist’s pencils. She frames this as an alternative to the erotic desire Shane attributed to her, highlighting the difference between what she actually wants and what others think she wants. She associates the pencils with positive figures in her life, such as Georgia and Mrs Carlyle.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Back in the present, Shane continues pressing Tyler to admit that she has a boyfriend. Tyler thinks about how strangely time and space work in cartoons, including how characters can run through walls and leave holes shaped like their bodies in the wall behind them. She recalls that her mother’s old boyfriend Gary once threw a bottle at a wall in their house, but “it just smashed.” Tyler continues thinking about the cartoons as Shane accuses her of blushing and presses her further on what she “gets up to” with her boyfriend.
Shane’s continued badgering, and the discomfort it produces in Tyler, leads her to reflect on the ways she has witnessed violence. Recalling one of her mother’s previous abusive boyfriends, she considers the cartoons’ weird reflection of reality as distraction and escape from the present. This chain of thought indicates that Tyler senses a similarity between Shane and Gary.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Later, Shane is attempting to fix Tyler’s mother’s Subaru, and he complains about the quality of the car. Tyler adds that Ellie, her sister, is working at Subway that night. Shane fights about the car with Tyler’s mother. Tyler fantasizes about crawling inside of a soft pasta shell like a hammock.
Tyler records the strained dynamic between Shane and her mother, in which Shane blames her mother for things which are not her fault, such as the quality of her car. Perhaps Tyler’s mother’s constant insecurity has something to do with Shane’s meanness.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Tyler thinks about what she’d do if her friend Georgia came over to her house. She thinks about watching TV, roasting marshmallows, putting on nail polish, and doing homework with her. Tyler is always careful to do her homework, and she mentions how much she enjoys sketching, although her mother doesn’t consider it a useful skill. She hopes that, if Georgia came over, her mother and Shane would leave them in peace.
Tyler’s fantasies of escape lead her to think, once again, about playing with her friend Georgia. Imagining the activities they’d do together, she mentions for the first time how much she enjoys sketching, helping to explain why she wants the Derwent pencils. The fantasy shatters when she thinks of her mother and Shane.
Themes
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Mrs Carlyle asks Tyler’s class who’s been writing in their journals. Since nobody raises their hands, Tyler doesn’t, either. When a student complains about having nothing to write about, Mrs Carlyle suggests writing about earlier moments in their lives, including memories of Christmas.
Although Tyler has been making significant use of her journal, she feels pressure to conform to the rest of her classmates so as not to single herself out. This shows her reluctance to express herself.
Themes
Repression Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Tyler describes a Christmas gift of her own, a doll that her Aunty Jacinta made by hand and gave to Tyler for Christmas two years ago. At the time, Tyler’s mother laughed at the doll and attempted to make fun of it with Tyler’s older brother Zac, who responded coldly. Tyler explains that three of her siblings, including Zac, no longer live with her family.
In her next flashback, Tyler points to divisions in her family: after she reacts positively to a gift from her aunt, her mother immediately seems to feel threatened. Moreover, all her mother’s attempts to bond with Tyler’s older brother, Zac, fail.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Tyler describes her gratitude when she received the doll from Aunty Jacinta, and how nice her aunt smelled. When Aunty Jacinta began helping Tyler think of names for her new doll, Tyler’s mother got up abruptly.
Tyler dwells on the moment she received the doll, using its positive qualities to illustrate what she likes about her aunt Jacinta. Ever insecure, her mother attempts to disrupt their budding closeness.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Related Quotes
On the way back from Christmas, Zac asked their mother to drop him off at the station, despite her reluctance to let him leave on Christmas day. Once he left, the kids’ mother began complaining to Ellie, asking her to confirm that Zac was always an “ungrateful little shit.” Ellie refused to confirm this, and her mother began to justify herself at length. Tyler describes her mother’s resentment towards other members of her family, including Aunty Jacinta and Tyler’s grandmother, and her mother’s suspicion that one of them called Child Services to take away her daughter, Tegan.
Zac rejects the kids’ mother once again, insisting on leaving even before the end of Christmas day, indicating how much he dislikes spending time with her. Tyler’s mother reacts to this by turning on him as soon as he’s out of the car, asking her other children to boost her wounded ego by insulting Zac, along with Jacinta and Tyler’s grandmother. Tyler’s sister, Ellie, refuses, showing her tense relationship with her mother. Clearly this home environment is quite toxic.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Tyler recalls writing a card to Aunty Jacinta last Christmas. Her aunt responded warmly, calling her “wonderful” and sending Tyler her phone number, despite the fact that Tyler’s mother already had it. Tyler decided to name her doll Calypso.
Jacinta’s card to Tyler attempts to deepen Tyler’s sense of closeness to her. By sending her phone number, she implies that she wants Tyler to think of her as an emergency resource separate from her mother.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Watching cartoons on Saturday morning, Tyler sees Shane in front of the TV. Shane insists that she read his ankle tattoo, which says “live fast die young leave a pretty corpse.” Tyler thinks it looks strange, and writes that she feels uncomfortable wearing pajamas while he’s in the house.
By insisting that Tyler pay attention to his body, Shane continues his predatory behavior. Moreover, the quote on the tattoo further suggests that he has erratic or violent tendencies. Tyler increasingly fears for her safety.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
On Tyler’s birthday, Tyler’s grandmother gives her a tin of colored pencils, but they are not the Derwents. Tyler compares their cheap, fragile quality to the Derwents’ durability. Her mother promises that they’ll have a party next year, and Ellie commits to making Tyler’s next birthday a better one. Tyler mentions that Mrs Carlyle baked cupcakes for her in school earlier that day.
Despite the fact that Tyler had previously told her grandmother that she wanted the Derwents, she buys Tyler an inferior brand, showing how little most adults listen to Tyler’s wishes. Mrs Carlyle and Ellie are more generous, helping her feel better.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Shane does not attend Tyler’s birthday because her mother hasn’t introduced him to Tyler’s grandmother yet. Ellie presses her on why she wants to keep him secret, and her mother says that she wants him to finish parole before she introduces him to the family. Tyler and Ellie play with toy disco balls in Tyler’s bed, and she describes feeling “lovely and warm.”
The fact that Tyler’s mother has not yet introduced Shane to Tyler’s grandmother shows that she feels either nervous about the outcome of such a meeting or ashamed of her boyfriend. Ellie goes out of her way to have private moments of intimacy with Tyler, which Tyler enjoys.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Tyler’s mother claims that she will soon be hired for a sewing job. She sews with an overlocker that Jacinta gave her two years ago. She’s working on a type of doll she calls “glamour plushies,” which she hopes she can use to start her own business. Ellie presses her on her expensive sewing scissors, which the girls’ mother bought by borrowing money from Ellie.
Tyler’s mother attempts to undertake a professional project, which shows how much she relies on others’ help: Jacinta bought her sewing equipment, and she had to borrow money from her daughter to afford the scissors. Ellie seems to resent this imposition, deepening their rift.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Tyler prepares dinner while her mother works. She then works on her school project in her room, since her mother’s things take up the whole kitchen table. She apologizes to Mrs Carlyle for the poor quality of the coloring, explaining that she did it with the pencils she received from her grandmother.
Once again, Tyler’s mother takes up an excessive amount of space in her daughter’s life. Tyler’s apology to Mrs Carlyle reflects her discontent with the tools and opportunities for self-expression available to her.
Themes
Repression Theme Icon
Tyler describes her mother’s dolls, comparing them to “cartoon monsters.” She checks in on Ellie, who is doing her homework. She explains that Ellie works hard in school and maintains a part-time job in order to be able to go to university. Tyler recalls Ellie fighting with her mother by claiming she’s setting a good example for her sister by showing her “how to get the fuck out of here.”
Tyler’s mother’s project is quickly going awry. Tyler describes some of Ellie’s efforts to become independent of her mother. Ellie’s statement that this behavior is meant to set a good example for Tyler shows that she feels a sense of responsibility towards her sister.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Shane comes for dinner, and Tyler senses that he’s in a “mean mood.” He mocks her mother’s dolls. Later, she hears her mother and Shane making noise in the halls. Her mother is laughing and seems happy, but the sound nevertheless makes Tyler feel like she has stones in her stomach. Ellie comes into Tyler’s room, wakes her up, and brings her to sleep in Ellie’s bed.
Once again, Shane treats Tyler’s mother unkindly. Nevertheless, their romantic relationship remains intact, which disturbs Tyler and Ellie. Ellie, once again, takes responsibility, coming to comfort Tyler.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Ellie says she keeps a small stone under her pillow to ward off bad dreams. Tyler writes that she sometimes dreams of being hunted by a wolf, but doesn’t tell Ellie. Instead, she tells Ellie that she sometimes feels like she has stones in her stomach. Ellie responds by promising to buy her Derwent pencils someday.
Ellie and Tyler discuss different mechanisms for coping with the anxiety they feel in their home life. Tyler refuses to confess her dreams, but tries to describe her fear metaphorically. Ellie’s promise indicates a desire to take better care of Tyler.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Mrs Carlyle tells her class that she once adopted a puppy that had trouble separating from its mother. Using an old clock, a fur collar, and a hot-water bottle, she tricked the puppy into believing its mother was in the cage with it; afterwards it learned to sleep on its own.
Mrs Carlyle describes creating a false substitute for maternal care for an animal that desperately craved it. After getting used to independence, the puppy no longer missed its mother. This resonates with Tyler, perhaps because of her own perceived lack of maternal care and the other mother figures in her life (Ellie and Mrs Carlyle) who help her not feel so alone.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Mrs Carlyle mentions that the puppy liked sleeping in baskets of old laundry. Tyler compares the puppy cuddling with Mrs Carlyle’s old clothes to the way people might cuddle with her mother’s dolls. She recalls Ellie telling her that they once had a cat, but that it ran away. Ellie says she doesn’t blame it.
This story helps Tyler think of her mother’s dolls as another kind of false substitute for intimacy. Ellie’s story of their runaway cat implies that their home life is unsuited to caring for vulnerable things or vulnerable people.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Tyler’s mother continues working on the dolls, complaining that Shane doesn’t do more to help her. However, she never complains in front of Shane. While Tyler’s mother is putting on perfume, Shane approaches Tyler and gives her a Mars Bar, asking her not to tell Ellie so that she doesn’t get jealous. He promises to leave surprises in Tyler’s room, under her pillow. Tyler smiles even though she tries not to, and hides the chocolate bar.
Tyler’s mother is too afraid to challenge Shane directly, despite her obvious discontent with their relationship. Shane attempts to cultivate a private relationship with Tyler, trying to manipulate her into feeling safe with him. He specifically warns her not to tell Ellie, presumably worrying that she might intervene to keep Tyler safe.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Tyler’s mother seems dejected about her progress on the dolls, and Tyler writes that they look “creepy or dead.” Ellie paints pupils in the dolls’ eyes, though, and they immediately look much better. The girls’ mother is relieved. Tyler compares Ellie’s intervention to a magic trick.
Noticing that her mother is unable to satisfactorily complete the project on her own, Ellie puts aside their tense relationship to help her, immediately making a valuable contribution to her work. Tyler is in awe of her sister’s accomplishment.
Themes
Trust Theme Icon
Tyler’s mother tells Tyler she’d like her to stay home from school the next day to help with her dolls, framing this as a special treat. Despite the fact that Tyler doesn’t want to miss school, she agrees. That night, Tyler wakes up to see someone standing in her doorway. When she realizes it’s Shane and asks what he wants, Shane pretends he was sleepwalking, then goes away.
Hoping to complete her work more quickly, Tyler’s mother manipulates Tyler into contributing her labor by pretending to give her a special reward. She never pauses to consider what Tyler herself wants. In the meantime, Shane’s advances are becoming more overtly threatening.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Ellie is upset with her mother for keeping Tyler home from school, worrying that that this will mean Tyler is forced to spend more time with Shane. They fight, and her mother mocks Ellie’s boyfriend, Luke. Ellie responds by pointing out that Shane’s efforts to fix her mother’s car have “ruined” it. This attack embarrasses the girls’ mother. Ellie has Tyler promise to text her if “anything goes wrong” or if Tyler “get[s] the stones feeling.”
Ellie, having noticed Shane’s behavior around Tyler, fears for her safety. She notes the ways he manipulates their mother. Since her mother is unable to contradict these observations, she reacts defensively and lashes out against her daughter. Ellie does what she can to make sure Tyler’s safe.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Tyler and her mother work on the dolls all day. When Ellie comes home, she wakes Tyler up in bed, asking her whether Shane did or said “anything weird,” and warning Tyler to tell her if Shane asks her to sit on his lap or “anything like that.” Tyler asks why she shouldn’t tell their mother instead; without explaining, Ellie reiterates sadly that Tyler should tell her, not their mother.
Ellie’s first action on returning home from work is to make sure Shane has not hurt Tyler. Telling Tyler to come to her for help instead of their mother, Ellie implies that they can’t trust their mother to intervene for them if Shane tries to hurt them.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Tyler recalls Ellie telling her that their two older brothers, Zac and Dylan, were sent to live with other families after accumulating criminal records and running away to find their father, who turned out to be “hopeless.” Tegan, their sister, left because their mother’s previous boyfriend, Ian, abused her. Their mother fought with Child Protection to no avail. Tyler asks Ellie if she’s saving up so she can afford to leave. Ellie responds by promising never to leave Tyler.
Tyler provides more background about darker elements of her family’s past. Her recollection of these incidents seems to back up Ellie’s implication that their mother won’t protect them against danger and abuse. Ellie reiterates both her independence from her family and the depth of her care for her sister.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Some time later, Tyler asks her mother to drive her to the mall so she can try to buy individual Derwents. Their car has become unsafe since Shane attempted to repair it, but Tyler’s mother dismisses her concerns. Tyler purchases five pencils. She recalls that her science teacher, Mr Godfrey, didn’t believe she had done her sketches on her own and accused her of copying them. After she proved that they were, in fact, her own, he enlisted her to decorate the board for parent-teacher night and didn’t apologize for doubting her. Tyler reflects that all teachers, Mrs Carlyle excepted, unfairly take advantage of students’ passions to pursue their own ends. She thinks about wanting “special,” artist-grade pencils instead of her student-quality ones.
Tyler begins acquiring Derwent pencils on her own, doing what she can to make up for others’ neglect of her desire for them. She reiterates the link between the pencils and her own independence by recalling that Mr Godfrey didn’t believe she was as talented an artist as she was: her sketching ability sets her apart from others. Afterwards, he exploits that ability for his own ends. In this sense, obtaining the Derwent pencils is, for Tyler, linked with the ability to use her talent towards her own ends.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Tyler and her mother visit the shop to which her mother sold the dolls. They aren’t in the window, and her mother is humiliated, assuming that they had only put them on display for a short time to appease her. However, a shop worker runs outside and informs them that they’ve already sold out. Tyler’s mother collects the money they’ve earned and buys donuts for Tyler and herself. Tyler wishes her mother bought her a Derwent pencil instead of a donut. The car won’t start in the parking lot, which prompts her mother to break down crying. Through tears, she hands Tyler thirty dollars as her share of the profit from the dolls.
Tyler’s mother is shocked to discover how successful her dolls have been, having automatically assumed the worst. Buying Tyler a donut and sharing her profits is a way of thanking her for her help; however, the fact that she bought her a donut instead of a Derwent indicates that she still fails to consider what Tyler really wants. Their broken car reminds readers of Shane’s continued negative impact on their lives.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Later, alone with Shane, Tyler passes him a call from his parole officer. Shane takes the call, then asks Tyler to do him “a favor” by urinating into a cup for him, claiming that it’s “just for a surprise” and a “trick [he’s] playing.” Tyler feels like she has stones in her stomach again. Although she is confused and frightened by his request, Tyler consents. She notes that she’s recording it in her journal because Mrs Carlyle encouraged them to describe things that “make us feel ashamed or like we want to cry.”
Shane manipulates Tyler into helping him cheat on a drug test for his parole. Tyler doesn’t understand why he wants her urine, but she feels violated and afraid. By recording the incident in her journal, however, she shows that Mrs Carlyle has taught her to make an effort towards expressing her feelings, no matter how painful that effort is.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
At school, Mrs Carlyle gently asks her students if anyone would volunteer to submit their journal. No students do, but when Tyler is waiting for Ellie to pick her up, she writes that she’s going to submit hers on an impulse.
Tyler submits her journal to her teacher without giving it much thought. Though apparently reckless, this submission amounts to an act of faith in Mrs Carlyle.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Two nights later, after Tyler has gotten her journal back from Mrs Carlyle, Tyler wants to tell Ellie about Shane making her urinate in a cup, but she feels like she has stones in her stomach again and that she can’t speak. The next day, Mrs Carlyle asks Tyler to stay behind, and explains that she’s reported the contents of Tyler’s journal to the police. Tyler begins to panic. Mrs Carlyle offers to drive her home, but Tyler asks to go to Mrs Carlyle’s house to see her pet budgies.
Tyler still feels unable to confide directly to people she trusts, including her sister, but when Mrs Carlyle explains that she’s reported the contents of her journal, Tyler suddenly realizes the consequences of her actions, which she had either failed or purposely neglected to think through earlier. Mrs Carlyle attempts to calm her.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Mrs Carlyle shows Tyler her aviary, adding that the mother bird has laid eggs, and that she still intends to give one to Tyler. Mrs Carlyle explains that she’s “bound by mandatory reporting,” and asks Tyler if she trusts her. Tyler says yes. Tyler asks if the mother bird would bite her if she put her hand in the nest; Mrs Carlyle sadly confirms this. Mrs Carlyle then drives her to the mall to meet Ellie.
Mrs Carlyle attempts to remind Tyler of how much she cares for her by reiterating her promise. Seeing the birds reminds Tyler of the possibilities offered by healthy, nurturing relationships; however, Mrs Carlyle confirming that the mother bird would bite her shows that blindly reaching out for loving relationships could get Tyler hurt.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Later, Tyler’s mother receives an apron from her Centrelink sewing course and proudly shows it to her daughters until Shane mocks it, after which she takes it off. From then on, she wears it only when he’s not in the house.
Tyler’s mother is proud of her achievements in her sewing course. Shane insults her, wounding her self-confidence. By wearing it when he’s not around, she attempts to keep some part of herself separate from his judgment.
Themes
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Later, Shane bursts into the house screaming for Tyler, complaining that he’s now violated his parole thanks to her tattling on him to her teacher. As Shane screams that he’ll kill her, Tyler buries herself in a laundry basket to hide. She feels like her “whole stomach [is] full of stones now gritting heavy together.” She tries to think of Derwent pencils.
Shane reveals that whatever friendliness he previously showed towards Tyler was a manipulative pretense. Tyler attempts to distract herself by thinking about the escape she associates with the Derwents.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Tyler’s mother weakly attempts to calm Shane, but Tyler gathers that she won’t do anything to defend her, which makes Tyler hate her mother. In the laundry, Tyler finds a “student of the week” badge her mother won in her sewing class. Thinking of Derwent pencils to steel herself, Tyler walks into the living room to confront Shane.
Tyler feels abandoned by her mother, which translates, for the first time, into open rage. However, thinking of her mother’s achievement in her sewing class seems to remind Tyler of the possibility of a better life for her family, and gives her courage.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Ellie tells Shane she’s called the police. Shane violently throws her against the wall, and Tyler observes that her sister didn’t leave a body-shaped hole in the wall like in cartoons. Ellie quickly stands up again and grabs a chair. Their mother quietly tells Shane to back off. Shane begins insulting her, calling her “fucked in the head.” Tyler thinks she’ll be too weak to defend her daughters.
Ellie immediately attempts to intervene for her sister. Once again, Tyler observes that real-life violence is far more terrifying than the way it’s portrayed on TV. When Tyler’s mother begins to intervene, Shane insults her again in order to make her back down.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Shane begins insulting Tyler as well. Tyler imagines hearing Ellie’s voice admonishing her not to respond, since responding would lead him to hurt them. Her mother says, “you’d better get out of here,” but it is unclear whether she’s telling Shane to leave or her daughters to run. Tyler presumes the latter.
Imagining Ellie comforting her gives Tyler the strength not to respond to Shane’s insults. Her mother begins to intervene again, but not strongly enough to have an effect. Tyler presumes she’s refusing to confront Shane.
Themes
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Shane continues to mock their mother, claiming that Ellie hates her. Ellie shakes her head in denial. Her mother stares at her, then suddenly adopts a much firmer attitude, ordering Shane to get out and drawing her sharp sewing scissors from her pocket.
Shane asserts that Ellie doesn’t love their mother. Apparently enraged by this attack, Tyler’s mother turns definitively against Shane, threatening him with the same sewing scissors she bought with Ellie’s money.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Shane grabs a knife and threatens Tyler’s mother, telling her that he’s stabbed others before. Tyler imagines Ellie telling her that it’s an empty boast. Her mother quickly moves forward and stabs him in the stomach with the scissors. Instead of fighting back, Shane falls to the ground and begins to cry. Tyler’s mother tells Ellie “to phone the police for real now”; Ellie embraces her.
When Shane threatens her in return, continuing his offensive boasting, Tyler’s mother takes action. Suddenly, Shane’s façade of toughened masculinity cracks to reveal a pathetic vulnerability beneath the surface. Ellie’s embrace shows that she’s finally convinced that her mother cares for her.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Tyler now addresses her journal to Mrs Carlyle, explaining that she’s writing using the Derwent pencils she received from Ellie as a Christmas gift. She reveals that her mother offered to send her wherever she wanted, and Tyler asked to go to her Aunt Jacinta’s house; her mother immediately agreed, and they spent the last two weeks of the term plus Christmas there.
Tyler turns the narrative from a private journal into something like a letter to Mrs Carlyle, showing that she’s becoming more comfortable expressing herself. She now owns the Derwents and has a better relationship with her family, showing that others have begun paying attention to her desires.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Tyler realizes that Mrs Carlyle will no longer be her teacher in the following year, but recalls that she told her class that there is no set ending for a journal. Tyler says she’s chosen to keep writing in order to prove her right. She remembers the afternoon at Mrs Carlyle’s house, adding the previously excluded detail that Mrs Carlyle told her that true friends never ask for favors as a test. She thanks Mrs Carlyle for helping her. She concludes by stating that she intends to put the diary in Mrs Carlyle’s mailbox, and asks Mrs Carlyle to keep a baby bird for her.
Tyler feels a deep sense of loyalty and gratitude towards Mrs Carlyle. She indicates that she’s not only become more comfortable expressing herself, but also learned what to expect from healthy relationships. Asking Mrs Carlyle to keep the bird for her, she shows that she aims to return the favor by taking care of others in the future.
Themes
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Power and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Repression Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Related Quotes