'Marshall also illuminates his world with a poet's gifts and lifts everyday scenes out of the ordinary with startling imagery...'
He is very visual. And detailed. 'The wall above the stove was still blistered bare of paint from the oven fire we had in the first year I went.' Such details are important. The wall above is linked to Sinclair's order of values which has people at the bottom, and to the storyteller's statement that, 'Over the four seasons that I could remember, nothing had been improved.'
For much the same reason, 'the cracked and stained windows', 'the clumps of weeds which grew in the broken pavement', and the 'vomited pie in the gutter', in 'The Fat Boy', are significant visual details. They show the depressed nature of the town, the lack of care and responsibility shown by townsfolk who blame someone else for their own immoral actions.
It is a small step for these details to have some real symbolic detail. Mr Van Gogh, 'with his arms outstretched like a cross' is a symbol of crucifixion, the persecuted artist mocked by a shallow secular society. Even his house, which had 'weathered stoically to an integration of rust and exposed wood' is symbolic of the man himself, who, for his art, is willing to expose himself to this mocking society. Because of the consummate beauty of his art behind the rough exterior, it stands for the man himself with his 'old-fashioned', 'careworn' appearance and the singular beauty of his passion within.
Such an image becomes more complex at the end when the house assumes a personality of its own. It 'collapsed stubbornly' with only one view of its 'vivid, hot intestines'. And finally, it 'collapsed like an old elephant in the drought, surrounded by so many enemies.' This simile, like so many others, is so unfailingly accurate and charged with emotion.
In this context, the 'dozer driver's mate' who 'wore a football jersey and sandshoes', clearly reflects the mainstream of New Zealand culture, with its emphasis on sport rather than art. He is a fitting accomplice.
Neddy's car is a symbol of his search for a better way, a happier place. The jelly monsters in the back always travel with him, symbolising perhaps his disturbed psyche or his past, distress, fears and dissatisfaction in this this grim world.