'No matter what the setting or subject matter of a story, moral values are always implicit and judgements are made... Marshall's stories frequently have an 'aphoristic' quality: they build to the utterance of beautifully worded statements about life that invariably give you a shiver down your back.' Frank Corbett.
'Ugly country breeds ugly people', says the storyteller at the end of 'Prince Valiant'. In 'Mr Van Gogh', 'A naked intensity of belief is an obscene gesture in ordinary conversation.' In 'Rosemary for Remembrance, 'In marriage there are aspects of personality so divergent that only humorous exaggeration will reconcile them.''... when asked to identify what he considers to be the greatest shorcoming of New Zealand society today: 'Materialism and acquisitiveness, an obsession with piling up possessions and things. Those aren't the real values in life.' For Norman, in 'Rosemary for Remembrance', he repressed his passion and natural talent because, 'It meant losing money... It meant no superannuation security, and not enough money for the girls at training college and university.'
'Materialism has combined with isolation in New Zealand to produce a distrust of eccentricity. For Owen Marshall, the variety of the New Zealand character has continued to absorb him. The stereotyped, taciturn, inarticulate New Zealander has been replaced by the talker, the committee member, and the debater.'
Witness Frank Reprieve Wilcox of 'Mr Van Gogh'. His passion for his art makes him the human being that he is.
'... he would have argued with Lucifer, for it was his necessity and power. It was what he was.'
Neddy's passion is not so obvious or possibly admirable. He escapes the grim and 'raddled' land and the narrowness of his fellows by driving alone at night listening to his country tapes, creating his 'whole world.'
Norman in 'Rosemary for Remembrance' has grasped at passion but seemed to lack the commitment to carry it through. He looks back on the influence of Rosemary who urged him to make a decision for security and the children. He bitterly regrets it, allowing his anger to fester and their relationship to be a battleground.