The novel A Bridge to Wiseman’s Cove written by James Moloney follows the story of Carl Matt as he settles into Wattle Beach. The novel portrays Carl as he grows and learns to love himself through exploring close relationships he develops with individuals.
The individuals that assist Carl in his development are Skip Duncan, Justine, and Joy Duncan. These three relationships change Carl as an individual in a positive way and ultimately cause him to say “I know all the worst things about being Carl Matt, and it’s not that bad”
Skip Duncan is a significant figure in the progression of Carl through his begrudging assistance and gradual love. Skip is an initial catalyst for Carl’s success through the position that he provides Carl with on the barge. This allows Carl to develop a feeling of responsibility which is shown when Carl says, “This is my boat too” (p.214). Meaning that Carl has developed responsibility and thinks of it as his own.
Carl’s work on the barge assists Carl in his personal development as he begins to feel secure and supported in his situation. Carl pictures himself as a “bloated pincushion with two legs” (p.4) which causes Carl angst. However, Skip allows Carl to live “without fear” (p.164) through the position he provides Carl with on the barge. This being due to the success that Carl provides Skip with on the barge and allowing him to be proud of the work he’s doing in his community. The relationship that Carl develops with Skip incites acceptance from Carl’s peers as he is able to form his own identity and no longer just be “Matt”, as a reaction causing self-acceptance by Carl.
James Moloney accentuates the need for love and acceptance by peers in the close relationship that Carl develops with Justine. Prior to Carl meeting Justine he is extremely introverted with no desire to come out of his shell. This prevents him from developing any positive relationships as he settles into Wattle Beach. Justine says “don’t play dead anymore, Carl” (p.185) as she recognizes that he isn’t forming any positive relationships which are affecting him.
This causes Carl to start seeking out new people that will help him in his personal development. Justine also assists Carl in learning to love and accept himself by being the first one of his peers to interact positively with him. This relationship is shown at Maddie’s party when “After each interruption, she returned to Carl, and there would be a pause and then her hand would find him… Carl stared at the screen for ninety minutes and didn’t take in a thing” (p.179). Justine’s relationship shows Carl how his peers accept him. This relationship shows Carl how someone else can love him and is a catalyst for the love himself.
Joy assists Carl in his development by making his life easier through looking after Harley and her continual emotional support. Joy’s relationship with Harley is positive as “He hasn’t been in trouble all week. That’s just it. He’s staying out of trouble. It’s ‘cause of Mrs. Duncan” (p.140). This takes a huge amount of pressure off of Carl as he no longer has to worry that Beryl will abuse Harley. Joy also assists Carl by helping him find his mother which gives him emotional reassurance and closure.
Carl is tortured by the fact that his mother never comes home and he believes that this is due to the fact that she did not love him. When Joy helps Carl find his mother, Carl confesses to Joy that “I thought she was happy somewhere, without me. It hurt so much to think of her, my own mother. That’s why I’m angry. All the time it was that one fear. That she didn’t love me” (p.232). This allows Carl to conclude worrying about what had happened to his mother and not feel tortured as to why she ‘abandoned him’ thus allowing Carl to focus on his own emotions.
Through the relationships that Carl Matt develops with Skip Duncan, Justine, and Joy Duncan, Carl is able to come out of his shell and change the way he feels about himself. Carl grows over the course of the novel and learns to accept himself through the relationships that he develops with certain individuals.