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This website is dedicated to the memory of Jessica Lincoln Smith, a John Marsden fan.
Lost tragically at 26, but never to be forgotten.

Robyn Mathers

Character profile for Robyn Mathers from the Tomorrow series by John Marsden

Note: As always these are just my opinions and thus subject to change at any time. If you disagree, think I have missed something, or have something to add, please use the link at the bottom of the page to send me a note.

WARNING: Partially blows plot of most books
Please don't read on if this concerns you

John Marsden obviously loves and respects his elder sister Robin very much. "Tomorrow When the War Began" is dedicated to her, and the Robyn Mather's, the most noble of the characters in the "Tomorrow" series, is based on her. (Marsden on Marsden, p76) Now; the author does say that most of the characters are no more than 10 - 15% based on another person; Robyn Mathers is such a powerful character that maybe she is more an idealised version of Robin Farran than the real person. Only the author knows.

So who is Robyn Mathers? Who is this 16 or so year old girl who dies to save her friends but the manner of whose death is the one of the most confronting things the survivors ever have to face (1), whose death is one of the great blows that eventually breaks them all?

She is clearly extraordinary person, but also one of the most stereotypical. The author goes to some efforts to humanise her, but she is one of Ellie's role models (The Third Day, the Frost, ch4, p32) and she is just a bit too good. Ellie does say that Robyn could hate "Corrie and I, we could hate, and Robyn too, even though she was so religious" (Burning for Revenge, Ch 11, p150), that she could get very depressed "Sometimes, if I hadn't seen any evidence of it for a while, I forgot just how angry and depressed she could get." (The Third Day, the Frost, ch 25, p249) and she wasn't good all the time "I mean she [Robyn] wasn't good all the time - hardly - but …" (Burning for Revenge, ch 18, p241) yet we never really see any of these things, we just have Ellie's general comments, most from after Robyn is dead. Even her anxiety attacks she just mentions, we never see one. (2)

Instead what we see is an extraordinary young person; a young woman who is physically short and nuggety, but graceful and well balanced, who is normally calm and quiet but loves to win (3) and who is at her best in the toughest of situations (4). Her actions when their world falls down around them in "Tomorrow, When the War Began" keeps them free (5). She saves Lee's life when he is shot (6) and keeps Ellie going when they strike to rescue Lee. (7) Her greatest moment, though, would have to be during the disaster that befalls them with Harvey's Heroes, when she spots the ambush and calls out a warning (8), then gets the team to safety as they come apart at the base of the fallen tree (9). She is a leader, and not just when the going is tough. When Ellie or Homer are active, she will let them run the show, but when leadership is needed, she will provide, even in 'normal' situations. (10)

She is also compassionate and caring, sometimes in a big way, but often just little things that make a big difference. (11)

Throughout the eight months of life that we share with Robyn Mathers the heart of her character is her faith, and till the moment of her death she struggles with what it means to be a Christian in the middle of an very ugly war. She shows understanding of why the Enemy may have invaded but at the same time does not want them to succeed, preferring to resist and then, afterwards, seek to improve things (12). She is not willing to use a gun, and when offered a weapon will decline to take it (13). She will, however, participate in attacks that will result in deaths, so long as she does not have to kill up close and personal (14) and she will accept the emotional consequences of what she has done, which are quite severe. (15) In the end she kills hand to hand, but does so in such a way to make sure she will not survive the experience. She could likely have shot Harvey, but did not. Instead she blows him up, and her with him, to give her friends at least a few more minutes of freedom. She is terrified but she still does it. Robyn Mathers is, to the last, the most noble and heroic of the eight.

Looking back, Ellie reflects on what she learnt from Robyn. (The Third Day, the Frost, last page) She writes "I used to think that heroes were tough and brave. But that last look on Robyn's face: it wasn't tough or brave. It was scared and uncertain. I learned something very important from Robyn: you have to believe in something. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Well, it's not. It's not for me and it wasn't for Robyn."

Robyn is a very powerful character, I just wish she had been drawn a little more humanly. I think I would have been able to accept her better if we had seen some of her flaws in action, rather than just being told about them in the abstract.

Still, she is a powerful and moral charater. I can't help but wonder how Robyn would react if she could see what her friends become by the time of "The Other Side of Dawn", as they abandon the enemy wounded in Hell, as they get a thrill from hunting and killing the Motorcycle Patrols? How would she cope with what the war does to her friends?

Supporting Extracts - Used with permission

There is some good stuff in here, have a browse.


Extract 1: The way Robyn chose to die maintains it grip on the characters through the rest of the series.

"Darkness, Be My Friend", Ch 18, p211
"Fi shivered. We were very close together and I could almost feel the goosebumps on her skin.

'Stratton Prison' she whispered. 'I have nightmares about that, thousands of them. I can't get it out of my head. Every time we start doing things like this, it's all I can think of. Robyn's face ...'."

plus lots of other incidents, and in particular, the bit where Ellie mentions that over and over she talked about Robyn with Andrea. (FIND QUOTE AND UPDATE THIS SECTION)


Extract 2: Robyn describes her panic attacks.

"The Dead of the Night", Ch 4, p52
    [Robyn] "'Ellie! What's wrong?'
    'I think I've got appendicitis,' I mumbled.
She laughed, but only a little bit, and quietly, which I was grateful for.' 'Oh, Ellie, you've got the panics. Boy, do I know the feeling. You start imaging every disaster possible, and before you know it you've convinced yourself that every one of them is totally and absolutely inevitable. In fact, you think they're already happening.'"


Extract 3: Robyn loves to win.

"Tomorrow, When the War Began", Ch 1, p13
    "I always thought of Robyn as fairly quite and serious. She got effort certificates at school every year, and she was heavily into church stuff, but I knew there was more to her than that. She liked to win. You could see it at sport. We were in the same netball team and honestly, I was embarrassed by some of the things she did. Talk about determined. The moment the game started she was like a helicopter on heat, swooping and darting around everywhere, bumping people aside if she had to. If you got weak umpires Robyn could do as much damage in one game as an aerial gunship. Then the game would end and Robyn would be quietly shaking everyone's hands, saying 'Well played', back to her normal self. Quite strange. She's small, Robyn, but strong, nuggety, and beautifully balanced. She skims lightly across the ground, where the rest of us trudge across it like it's made of mud."


Extract 4: She is at her best in the toughest of situations.

"The Dead of the Night", ch 5, p66
    "On the other flank was Robyn. Looking at her I thought of those old-time heroes. Those old kings for instance, who'd had titles to go with their names. Edward the Confessor, Ethelred the Unready, William the Conqueror. Robyn was Robyn the Dauntless. When things were going quietly and normally she kept a low profile. But when the going got tough Robyn grabbed the axe, swung it round her head, and charged. In the most frightening times, the most horrifying moments, she was at her best. Nothing seemed to deter her. Maybe she felt nothing could touch her. I don't know. Even now she was walking along quite casually, head up. I had the impression that she was singing something even, by the way she was tapping her left hand on her thigh."


Extract 5: She keeps her head when their world falls apart.

"Tomorrow, When the War Began", ch6, p64
    "Lee had tears pouring down his face, but now he wiped them away quickly, 'Let's listen to Robyn. Come on everyone'.
'I'm sorry Robyn,' I said. 'I know you didn't mean …'
'I'm sorry too,' she said. 'It was a bad choice of words.' She took a deep breath and clenched her fists. You could see her calming herself, like she did at netball sometimes.
At last she continued. 'Look, everyone. I didn't want to say much. Just that we've got to be careful. If we go rushing around the countryside, to seven different houses, well, it mightn't be such a bright thing to do, that's all. We should decide some things, like whether to stick together, or to break into small groups, like Kevin and Corrie want to do. Whether we should use the vehicles. Whether we should go any further in daylight. It's almost dark now. For a start I suggest no one goes on from here till it is dark, and that when they do go they don't use lights.'"

Following her advice saves them.


Extract 6: Robyn saves Lee when he is shot

"Tomorrow, When the War Began", Ch 10, p133
    "Robyn skipped over the next bit pretty quickly but it's one of the reasons for writing all this down, because I want people to know stuff like this, how brave Robyn was that night. … She picked up the photocopier that sits on a stand near the lottery desk and chucked the whole thing through the door. Then she ran to Lee, heaved him onto her back, across her shoulders, and carried him through the shattered door, kicking out bits of glass as she went.

carrying Lee, she staggered along the five buildings to get to the restaurant. The old door at the back, facing the carpark, has been broken open, so sge got in there OK. She dropped Lee onto the loading dock and pulled up the roller door and dragged him into the darkness."


Extract 7: She keeps Ellie going

"The Dead of the Night", ch 1, p4
    "Robyn was so brave that in the middle of one of our toughest times, driving a truck through a bullet storm as ninety k's, she'd kept me sane. Left to myself I think I might have pulled over to the slow lane, to let all the enemy vehicles overtake. Or stopped at a pedestrian crossing, to give way to a soldier with a machine gun. I drew a lot of courage from Robyn that night, and other times too."


Extract 8: She acts decisively to try and save the ambushed soldiers

"The Dead of the Night", ch 9, p134
    "'There!' Robyn said
    A sharp ray from the setting sun had suddenly flashed on something in a tree way down near the raod. It was a gun barrel.
    Now, wherever I looked, I saw soldiers. hey were hidden behind trees and among rocks, spread in a half moon above the road
    Robyn was a second ahead of everyone else.
 'COOOOOOOOO-EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!' She was on her feet, hands to her mouth, and her call rolled around the hills like the cry of a giant bird. The effect was dramatic."


Extract 9: And again as the characters flee

"The Dead of the Night", ch 10, p146
    "Almost immediately I heard another lot of footsteps coming through the trees, quite brisk and sure. … it was Robyn who was walking towards me, looking as calm as ever - until she saw the weapon.
     'Ellie! Don't shoot me!'
I lowered it.

'I'm wrapt to find you,' Robyn said. 'It was just a sudden brainwave to come here. If you hadn't been here … I don't know what I would have done. I didn't have any other ideas.' She paused for a few seconds, as if thinking about something, then she took charge.
    'Come on guys,' she said. 'You can have your nervious breakdowns later. Like I'm going to have mine, for calling out at the men on the road. But you can't have them now. I'm not being funny about this. We simply have to keep ourselves together, if we're going to make it.'
    She blinked furiously. Her face seemed to crumple for a moment. Her lips twisted and she put her knuckle to her mouth, struggling to keep control until gradually she was able to speak again."

But she doesn't let go. She gets them out safely.


Extract 10: She is a quiet leader even in calmer times
"Tomorrow, When the War Began", ch 17, p221
Robyn, Kevin, Corrie and Chris return from their reconnaissance of Wirrawee and brief the others

    "Robyn did most of the talking. She'd already been their unofficial leader when they left, and it was interesting to see how much she was running the show now."


Extract 11: She is caring in small but significant ways

"The Dead of the Night", ch 1, p4
    "Like us all, she'd been devastated by what happened to Corrie and Kevin, but that hadn't stopped Robyn getting calmer with each passing day. She smiled a lot. She smiled at me a lot, which I appreciated. Not everyone smiled at me."


"The Third Day, The Frost", ch 18, p171
    "I found I didn't have enough strength to pull my own pack into the back of the Jackaroo, and had to ask Robyn to do it for me. She looked at me anxiously. 'It's OK,' I said. 'Just find me some food, please.'
We drove on, and a minute later her hand appeared in front of my face. She was holding something. I was too busy driving to look at it but I opened my mouth and she pressed a date into it. I love dates. I have no idea where she got them - I didn't know she had any - but she was always coming up with little surprises like that."


Extract 12: She will resist, but wants a better way after the war

"Tomorrow, When the War Began", ch 13, p 170
    "We 've got all this land and all these resources, and yet there's countries a crow's spit away that have people packed in like battery hens. You can't blame them for resenting it, and we haven't done much to reduce and imbalances, just sat on our fat backsides, enjoyed out money and felt smug.'
'Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles,' Kevin said unforfortably.
'And now they've taken the cookie and crumbled it a whole new way,' Royn said. 'In fact it looks like they're taking the whole packet.'"

Kevin challenges her, saying Robyn sounds like she doesn't mind the invasion, and Robyn replies.

    "'Of course I mind,' Robyn said. 'If I was a saint maybe I wouldn't mind, but I am not a saint so I mind rather a lot. … I can understand why they're doing it. But understanding isn't the same as supporting"

'So does that mean you're not going to fight them?' Kevin asked, still looking for a fight himself.
Robyn sighed. 'I don't know. I already have, haven't I? I was right there with Ellie when we smashed our way through Wirrawee. I guess I'll keep fighting them, for the sake of my family. But after the war, if there is such a time as after the war, I'll work damn hard to change things. I don't care if I spend the rest of my life doing it.'"


Extract 13: She won't shoot people

" The Dead of The Night", ch 13, p 188
Soldiers arrive at the Kevin's farm, where they are sheltering from constant rain.

    "Robyn accepted the .22 but I saw her look at if for a moment and then lay it carefully on the floor beside her. I didn't know what to think of that. Could we rely on her if it came to a shoot-out? If she did refuse to shoot, was she right or wrong? If she was right, that made me wrong. Sweat prickled my skin, as though I'd rubbed against a stinging nettle."


Extract 14: but she will co-operate with plans that will result in people dying

In "The Dead of the Night" Robyn participates in the attack on the convoy in Buttercup Lane. What she does is not specifically mentioned, but they are all throwing Molotov Cocktails and only Homer is mentioned as having failed to throw his.

She also participates in the attack on Turner Street, failing to gain entry, but attempting it.

She also disables the truck in "The Third Day, the Frost" accepting the boys arming themselves with guns to protect her and, as Ellie says on p107 (ch 12) "I think Robyn was quite keen to do things that didn't directly hurt anyone." on page p113 we see her reaction to having placed the timer. "She was grinning. I got the impression she'd enjoyed herself, despite the danger. 'It was insane'"


Extract 15: and she will accept the emotional consequences of doing so

"The Dead of the Night", p234
They are discussing attacking Turner Street, for the first time deliberately making people their target and trying to work out if can, or if they should.

Homer is asking each in turn.

'What Ellie said made me think,' Robyn said, unexpectedly. 'When she asked why we were the ones in this position, why we hadn't been taken prisioner like everyone else. Maybe this is a kind of trial for us, a test, to see what we're made of.' She stood and walked to the window and turned to face us. 'At the end of it, maybe we'll be judged to see how we've handled ourselves. And I think we'll only pass that test if we've acted with honour, if we've tried our best to do the right thing. If we don't do things out of greed or ambition or hatred or lust for blood, if we keep testing our decisions against our own beliefs, if we try to be brave and honest and fair… well, I think that's all that's expected of us. We don't have to be perfect, so long as we keep trying to be perfect.'
'So what are you prepared to do?' Homer asked.
'I can't answer that in advance. Let's work out a plan and then I'll do all I can do to make it work. For the time being, you'll have to be satisfied with that.'"








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