At the end of class today, we discussed Tosh’s death and what it could mean. Several students commented that Nellie’s reaction was because Tosh was her friend while others suggested that Tosh was the foundation that held the others up and gave them hope. I agree with both of these. Tosh’s death broke the hope Nellie had as she was her source of stability with her practicality and pushing to keep them moving. Nellie did not come to the front with friends like Paul did and Tosh was the friend and force that helped her out.
Like Paul and Kat, Nellie looked up to Tosh as someone to listen to and follow. After Tosh cut her hair, Nellie eventually cuts her own even though she knows her mother will not approve. When they are watching the show with the Germans, Tosh ends up translating the remarks the men make about them. Even though Nellie started out feeling uncomfortable and exposed, she states that, “[Tosh] made me see the funny side of it” (pg 143). Tosh allows Nellie to relax and escape the stress of the war by providing humor and logic to the situation. Like with Paul being able to relax with Kat so much that they are like lovers, Tosh presents this easy-going and approachable front that lets most people in and allows them to relax even with the war going on outside their door.
With losing Tosh and Kat, both Paul and Nellie end up breaking because they lose their friend, mentor, and shield. It is repeatedly stated that they are unable to trust the older generation at home because they have just tossed them into war and instead do nothing themselves. For both of them, they are not able to reveal the reality of the war to their family. Nellie is not even able to reveal the full reality of the war to her sister Trix who is also participating in the war. To me, I feel that Tosh and Kat were not only friends to Nellie and Paul but also parental figures, ones that had more experience, knowledge, and wisdom to pass down and who looked after them. It is commented that Tosh has a motherly figure and that “[Nellie had] adored her since the first night [she] arrived” (pg 11). Nellie reveals that that first night, Tosh was the one to get her focused and help her deal with being an ambulance driver, similar to a parent taking care of their child. I would like to present the idea that Tosh was not only a friend and a symbol of hope to Nellie, but also a maternal figure to Nellie and others in the way she took care of them. She was able to act as a replacement for Nellie’s own mother, who sent her out into war and seemed to not care about the danger of it. As the more experienced member in the group, Tosh was the parental figure they could trust unlike the ones at home that forced them into war and her dying was similar to a child losing their parent while they are still young. Does anyone else see Tosh as a mother figure, or based on her humor and attitude, possibly a father figure instead? Also, as was discussed last class about the breaking of gender and how Tosh’s figure is both masculine and feminine, could she fall into both the maternal and paternal roles of parenthood?