Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Homelands and Love

Early on in Wendt's novel, Sons for the Return Home, the main characters profess their love for one another after the girl has his first encounter with racism:

" 'Now I'm beginning to understand what it's like,' she said.  She reached over and gripped his right hand.
The starless sky seemed to press down on the car as it rushed headlong into the neon lights of the city, pursuing tram rails that glittered like knife blades.
I love you.
I love you too." (Wendt 24)

Because Wendt has this moment occur immediately after the experience of racism that occurs at the party, Wendt seems to suggest that the girl had to experience racism in order to fully understand the boy.  She needed to feel what it was like to be in his position in order to really know him, and therefore to really love him.  Once she understood all that he was going through, they were able to articulate their love for one another.
I think that Wendt's novel tells us a lot about the power of love.  In this novel, love was able to unite the boy and the girl across societal, cultural, and economic gaps.  Sons for the Return Home is very much about the boy's coming of age and accepting his own identity.  His love relationship with the girl is a clear illustration of one of his struggles with his identity, Samoan versus papalagi.  In New Zealand, he is clearly an islander, native, or Samoan.  He stands out.  Back in Samoa, he stands out because he is so much like the papalagi, or a New Zealander Samoan.  His love for the girl helps him come to terms with this struggle.
 In New Zealand, he learns to accept the country that he came to as a foreigner, or "exile" as his own home, "Without her, you would be much less than you are now.  As you walk the main street of this city, which, through loving her, you have learnt to accept, under the dark dome of this sky that covers this country which, through loving her, you have grown to know in all its moods and sickness and loneliness and joy and colours and cruelty, this is what your heart tells you.  She is you" (129).  The relationship between the boy and the girl, their love, made the boy feel at home in a country where he once felt awkward and out of place.
What Wendt might be getting at in Sons for the Return Home is that love is more powerful than any external influence, societal rule, or cultural tradition.  Love can break boundaries, as demonstrated by the relationship between the boy and the girl in the novel. His relationship with the girl and everything that they went through so changed the boy that he was unable to find comfort and create a home in the country, Samoa, where he previously felt he always belonged.

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