Tom Brennan Analysis
The novel begins with a journey, both physical and emotional; the Brennans are physically moving houses and towns, but also moving into new, unfamiliar territory. The leaving of ‘home’ is synonymous with the left of what id known, familiar and comfortable, in a literal and metaphorical sense.
‘The Story of Tom Brennan’: Prologue
‘In a couple of hours they would wake up and find us gone, far away, so as not to remind them of their pain and what our family now meant to this town’ (p. 2)
‘I hadn’t decided if I was playing rugby this year. In fact, I hadn’t decided if I was playing ever again. I didn’t know if I could without my brother. Things just weren’t that simple anymore. ’ (p. 10)
Rugby makes up much of Tom’s own self-identity – he’s reluctance and indecision to play again signifies the uncertain period he’s going through. Tom is forced to re-define himself without his brother for guidance, of whom he lived in the shadow of for his entire life. He’s now confronted with the task of negotiating the adult world, on his own. Without his brother, and without Mumbilli, Tom feels he can’t continue with rugby, meaning he’s lost much of his identity.
‘Tell someone who cares, Tom. ’ (Kylie, p. 15)
Kylie and Tom’s relationship is breaking down. This quote represents not only Tom and Kylie’s relationship being in turmoil, but also the entire families. The loss of Daniel, and comfort of their hometown, stresses the family because of the great loss of identity they’ve encountered.
‘You see Fin was changing, growing and somehow that altered things between Daniel and him. ’ (p. 33)
Fin is physically changing, growing into an adult, and this is affecting his relationship with people, particularly Daniel.
This quote reinforces the fact that growth and development is inevitable, although comes with pressure and external influences.
‘His legs had wasted to long pieces of bone wrapped in shiny skin. ’ (p. 61)
Fin is a constant reminder of childhood, of the night the accident and everything difficult that’s happened since. Seeing Fin so withered and frail is confrontational for Tom, and is often a source of fear and barrier for emotional growth for him.
‘I’m going to get you, you dobber. ’ (Daniel, p. 70)
A flashback to when Tom and Daniel were very young helps to contrast between then and now; we can see the innocence and naivety of childhood in this scene, and this helps to understand the leg of the journey that’s already undergone. Tom is now in his teenage years, and grown physically, mentally and emotionally, and continues to do so. This is stresses that the journey of ‘into the world’ is a long, tedious one, and also inevitable.
‘Don’t start preaching to me, Tom! ’ She jumped off the bed. ‘Just because you’re so paranoid. People are going to find out sooner or later. Our foreheads were almost locked together. ‘Don’t you get that! ’ She pulled away and walked to the bedroom door. ‘Get out,’ she spat ‘I don’t want you in here You’re such a downer, and I don’t need it! ’ (Kylie, pp. 87–88)
Continued fracturing of Tom and Kylie’s relationship again represent the entire family, this time highlighting each person’s different method in coping with the uncertain times. This turmoil has forced passing judgments onto each other, and further pushes them into worlds of greater responsibility, complexity and individualism.
Although difficult, this is essential for growth into the wider world for Tom, as it forces him to break from his pre-established self image in the shadows of his brother and develop individuality.
‘Sunday the 28th of August marked the first day of my new life. ’ (p. 101)
28th of August was the day after the accident; the day Mumbilli discovered the tragedy, and the day that everything changed for the Brennans forever. This quote highlights Tom’s alertness to the journey soon to be made.
‘I want to see Daniel this weekend. ’ (Tom, p. 115)
Tom takes a big step forward in overcoming the adversities he’s faced with, showing that he’s maturing and making steady way through his journey of growing into the wider world.
‘The back page of the Billi Weekly ran a photo of me throwing a dive pass to Daniel’ (p. 120)
Flashbacks to Tom’s previous rugby games with his brother re-affirm the loss he feels towards his old life. Tom feels the need to have everything the way it once was, and Coghill can’t replicate the joy he found in the endless afternoon training sessions with Daniel and his father, nor the adulation of the local community.
Didn’t they realise we weren’t like everyone else here? ’ (p. 130)
Tom feels because they once were a respectable family in Mumbilli, they shouldn’t be considered in the same way as others who were relatives of criminals, and shouldn’t have to go through the security measures at the prisons, like the other ‘criminals’. He hadn’t accepted that Daniel was also a criminal. Chapter 11 ‘Well, Tess,’ Kath started, ‘I’m sorry about that. But my son can’t even turn his neck to see his back. ’ (Kath, p. 154) This serves as a reminder of the past, everything that happened and the pain the family is now experiencing. It also stalls, and possibly prevents, any positive progress the family had made individually in coming to terms with the accident and getting over the ordeal.
‘You know, today I’m going to the Hill Deli to buy one of their homemade lasagnas. I hear they’re delicious. ’ (p. 167)
Gran is genuinely trying to grow closer to Tom, by showing her concern for his wellbeing and her want to resolve Tom’s inner turmoil and the distance he feels between himself and the rest of the family. This demonstrates the resolution of the families fighting, and beginning of acceptance and growth.
‘You know why I feel so bad? ’ I rolled my eyes at her. ‘Cause it affected you, Tom, and that’s the thing that dawned on me afterwards. I’m so angry at Daniel because, well, because what he did has ruined everything for me and you. As if he ever would have thought of that. ’ (Kylie, p. 189)
Although Kylie has done wrong by the family, and a fight has occurred, this quote demonstrates how Kylie’s coping with the accident and moving towns, how Kylie feels and who she blames, and the beginning of Tom and Kylie’s relationship repairing.
They deserve a fair go, like you did. ’ (Joe, p. 210)
This quote demonstrates that although Tom doesn’t feel the same about rugby anymore, and he’s new team can’t live up to his old team, he needs to move on and come to accept things the way they are now.
‘But I was beginning to think it wasn’t a load of crap. Something was dawning on me. Something I thought I’d never feel. ’ (p. 214)
Tom visits Daniel, and Tom begins to understand that winning isn’t everything when Daniel questions how someone could lose, and still enjoy themselves. This is demonstrative of Tom moving forward, maturing and coming to accept things the way they are now.
‘He was on a self-destruct mission. ’ (Tom, p. 229)
After Kylie and Tom discuss the accident, and reveal their own individual guilt’s of interfering (or not) in the lead up to the accident. The pair comes to the conclusion that Daniel was his own worst enemy, and ultimately, he brought this all on himself. This is an important step in moving forward, coming to terms with the accident.
‘The siren rang for full-time, the score still 9–7 but you would’ve thought we were the winners. (p. 251)
This quote demonstrates the progress Tom has made in the world of rugby; the game still makes up much of his self-identity, but his attitude has changed. This is demonstrative that Tom no longer needs to win to feel satisfied, proving he has made much progress into his journey into adulthood.
‘I think I’ll call you Harvey’, she crooned. ‘Because Saint Harvey was famous for his miracles. ’ (Gran, p. 268)
Brendan and Tom build Gran a new chicken coop together, and surprise her with it. Gran is grateful for the boys giving her the gift of a past she’d thought she’d lost forever. This is demonstrative of the family ties being rekindled and as strong as ever.
You helped me find my old self. Believe me, that’s everything. ’ (Tom, p. 283)
Tom finds himself at peace with the world he lives in, he feels whole again. Although we realise he’s not the same anymore because of the journey he’s been through, Tom relates the happiness he feels now to the child-like happiness he felt before the accident and before everything began to change dramatically. Tom overcame his adversity, along with the rest of his family, and is now so much closer to adulthood.