Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Debilitation from Heritage

So far, homelands have always been a precious, rare thing being lost. In a strange turn, Wendt has created a different sort of homeland, where cultural strength becomes just as much a barrier as a source of strength. The strange use of language to create closeness between the two main characters provides a bond the reader doesn’t necessarily understand but can appreciate, yet doesn’t always manage to comfort in light of their struggles.
These struggles, fights against their heritage, become increasingly indirect as the story plows onward. From their social encounters, and how people look at them, to the girl’s introduction to her parents (around pg 40), the couple seems to always fight simply to survive. But there are important pieces that hint at a greater compatibility, not just between the two, but twixt their opposing peoples.
“By loving her, he was feeling for the first time a growing and meaningful attachment to the country which had bred her” (pg. 24). With these words, the reader comes to understand the couples’ struggle, not just to get over their own cultural sets of stigmata, but also to accept a separate society that has, for each of their whole lives, been regarded as alien. Only later in the book does the man come to a realization while at a party: “The whole history of the pakeha had been cursed with this fear (of not being strong next to the other races), and the Maoris and other minority groups had to pay for it” (pg. 125) Only by gaining such understandings will the couple be able to survive public opinion of their love, let alone defend their choice.
The other stereotypes they must fight along the way, like his hyper masculine tendencies and her acceptance of them (indeed, the whole culture’s probable acceptance of them) all link back to their heritage, and only after conquering their misunderstandings of one another can they work on their other personal problems.

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