Yuanyuan Liang

PhD Student in English Literature

Tribulations and Trials: A Study of Trauma in Margaret Mahy's Youth Adult Novels

Supervisors: Dr Anna Jackson & Prof Kathryn Walls


The word “trauma” is from the Greek for “a wound”; its principal application today has been developed into psychic injury. Virtually all Mahy’s chief protagonists turn out to be traumatized. Indeed, novels like The Other Side of Silence (1995), not only the chief protagonist but their relatives, friends, and (just as importantly) their enemies are also traumatized. Traumas in Mahy’s novels can cover a very wide range.  They include life in a non-original family, sibling bereavement, social interaction problem, child-abuse and parental loss, etc. Also, Mahy alludes to collective trauma, particularly in her most recent books, reflecting the global energy crisis and brutal wars. These fictionalized disasters deeply hurt the people who have gritted their teeth to endure the unimaginable hardships. Mahy’s works raise at least three questions: The first has to do with her psychological models, which are most likely suggestive of Freudian, Jungian and Adlerian analysis (acquired in Arts Faculties in the 1950s, when Mahy was a university student). The second is related to Mahy’s novelistic representation of her psychological theme. Very scarcely are the key traumas put in the foreground; instead, they are generally back-stories in another space or time. The third question is the resolutions or therapies, proposed by Mahy’s always empathetic novels. No one kind of resolution covers every novel and it is more interesting to note that some of her endings reveal the complexities of life by foreshadowing potential instability in the long run, which disturbs the equilibrium just resulting from the current reconciliation.


Yuanyuan Liang finished her BA in Beijing Language and Culture University; her MA was completed in Beihang University (Beijing, China). Her research interest includes British Aestheticism Literature and New Zealand Young Adult Fiction.