Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A house is not a home?

Of the boy’s return back to Samoa, Wendt writes:

It was hard to believe that he had spent nearly twenty years preparing and waiting for this return. So many years and now nothing more than an uncomfortable seat, as a stranger, in a bus packed with the mythical characters of the legends his parents had nourished him on for so long. ’Forget her’, he heard his brother say in the darkness. And the reality of New Zealand was with him again (172-3)

I believe that this particular passage provides a couple of examples of how Wendt’s writing allows the reader to not only see the boy and girl relationship from the inside, but also to struggle along with the boy through his conflict with the concept of ‘home’.

Was the boy really “preparing” and “waiting” for this return to his homeland, or merely just acting in part to his parents’ homeland? It cannot be just coincidence that the two biggest causes of conflict in the boy’s life are compacted into those lines; after all, if “home is where the heart is”, and his heart is still with the girl, then it would follow that he may (still) feel that his home is back in New Zealand. For the boy, New Zealand is reality itself, and the Samoan homeland as just another place from his parents stories—just “legend”. Where Samoa, for the boy, seems to be a prison from which “he couldn’t escape the noise and smell of people…enveloping him” (176), then New Zealand, and even the boy’s return to New Zealand means freedom—“He was alive; at a new beginning. He was free of his dead” (217). Much like his father felt when he let go of the demons of his father’s memory (“I feel free now. Free. I forgive him. And I didn’t fail him. Even if I did, I don’t care anymore” (208)), so too does the boy feel free in his new beginning: a ‘new’ life for himself.

Wendt also seems to use pronouns to allow the reader to completely immerse himself or herself in the intimate relationships of the novel—not only that of boy and girl, but also between boy and “home”. The novel feels –even becomes—a universal drama, in which the reader can become completely immersed, where our own names could be inserted for the characters’; proper nouns and names, then, would seem to function merely as external labels not (properly) encompassing the internal, ‘deeper’ meaning (not to sound cliché). It seems also, that (for the most part) only the “home-lands” are referred to by their proper nouns (e.g.: ‘Wellington’ & ‘New Zealand); from what I remember, even the names of the boy’s and the girl’s parents (or grandparents, for the boy) are omitted. Wendt seems to suggest that putting a name to a face, or alternatively, a name to an abstract notion (i.e. ‘love’ or ‘racism’), would not allow you to understand the (internal) values of the characters; as Grace in Potiki writes, it would not “let the boot be on the other foot”.

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