In The Changeover, the symbolism of moon mythology is combined with romantic conventions, quantum theory, the black holes of astronomy, and Jungian psychology to construct a concept of being in which fantasy and reality exist together. Mahy’s metaphor for life is a hologram: Since each piece of a hologram is exactly like the rest of it, inner or subconscious experience and outer reality cannot be separated.
This romance, like a folktale, uses psychological truths in opposition. Good is almost overcome by evil but triumphs in the end. Mahy sets the stage for her super-natural plot with the generous use of personifications. By endowing inanimate objects with human characteristics, the author creates a world where magic is possible.
The traditional symbols of romance are present, and feminine motifs and imagery are used lavishly. Although Laura uses the male symbols of the sword and the wand, she also has a womb symbol for herself, an opal cup. Pink, a feminine color, is evident in the pink crocodiles, pigs, and rosebuds of the novel. Laura’s father wears a pink shirt when he comes to the hospital. The number three, which is also considered feminine, abounds in the story. There are three people in the Chant and Carlisle families. Jacko is three years old. Three adults “mother” Laura: Kate, her natural mother, and Sorry’s mother and grandmother, who personify moon goddesses. Laura’s father left his family for another woman three years ago. Three older men cause Laura pain: her father; Chris Holly, who is a potential stepfather; and Carmody...
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First published in Britain in 1983, The Changeover established a new formula for female initiation stories. Laura is a true heroine who “slays the dragon” by her own brave actions in a modern city—with all of its problems, such as divorce, child abuse, and crime. She does not need a male figure to rescue her, although one does help her. She falls in love but does not have sexual relations with or marry him, as most female characters do in romances. She pulls together the skeins of her ancestry, her cultural heritage, her literary experience, and her psychological self to fashion herself as a loving, nurturing young woman. This feat is accomplished through the feminine characteristics of imagination and intuition. To tell Laura’s story, Margaret Mahy uses allusions to familiar folktales and to children’s fantasies such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz (1900). “The Tyger,” a poem from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794), is the source of the book’s most powerful symbol, the significance of which is pulled from the psychological theories of Carl Jung. In 1984, The Changeover was awarded a Carnegie Medal, the United Kingdom’s annual award for the most outstanding children’s book of the previous year. It was Mahy’s second Carnegie Medal, the first coming in 1982 for The Haunting.