In Albert Wendt’s ‘‘Sons for the Return Home’’, love is conceived differently by individuals. Actually, the book shows that pure love exists, however it is altered by the issue of race. It is related to what we talked about in class, the tension between the interior and the exterior : the ‘‘boy’’ and the ‘‘girl’’ have a pure and simple relationship, but it is made difficult because of the issue of race. They are constantly reminded by the exterior that he is a Samoan boy who has fallen in love with a Papalagi girl, and vice-versa. The opposition between the two different conceptions of love is also expressed by their parents. Interestingly, both families echo each other in their attitude: the Samoan mother and the Papalagi mother are against the union of their children, whereas their fathers are more tolerant.
Both mothers have almost the same attitude when they meet the mate of their children. During the dinner, they seem quite pleased but it is not the case afterwards. For instance, when the Papalagi girl comes , she ‘‘wants to show that she can be more New Zealander than the New Zealander’’(Wendt, 70). However, when the Samoan boy asks his mother about the Papalagi girl, she answers : ‘‘She won’t fit into Samoa…Our way of life, our people may destroy her’’(Wendt, 73). Things worsen when he announces her his desire to marry her. She is outraged and answers : ‘‘My own son married to a papalagi. My grandchildren to be half-castes. It cannot be.’’ (Wendt, 135). In other words, the Samoan mother reduces the love of his son to a matter of race and nothing more. She does not take into account his feelings, his interior, but rather exterior factors. She thinks about her reputation among other people from her community, and does not think above that, about the essence of their love.
We find the same pattern in the girl’s family. When she announces her mother that she wants to marry him, the mother observes : ‘‘He’s dark, isn’t he ? Oh, why did you have to ruin my day ?’’(Wendt, 131). Again, like the Samoan mother, the Papalagi mother refers to the exterior, the color of the boy’s skin. For the mothers, it seems that the exterior must shape the definition of love.
The vision of the dads is different, they are more tolerant. Contrary to his wife, the Samoan father reassures his son about his choice. ‘‘But I don’t suppose they’re (Papalagi women) any different from our own women. All women, the good women, they’re all heal a man’s pain, like soothing ointment or the air of the morning. Is she like that ?’’(Wendt, 136). The Samoan father does not let exterior factors shape his definition of a ‘‘good woman’’ and by extension his definition of love. In the contrary, love must be related to the qualities of a person, in other words to the interior. He points out the essence of love.
It is a bit more complex the Papalagi father. Like his wife, he too worries about exterior factors but not that much. Actually, he is able to understand his daughter because he went through a similar situation. He wanted to get married to a Maori girl, but his parents forced him away from her. Here again, we find the tension between interior and exterior : love was there but was made impossible because of the issue of race and other exterior factors. Her dad even adds at the end of his account: ‘‘ We become creatures we never really mean to because of circumstances…’’(Wendt, 143).
As we have seen, a true and pure love exists between the ‘‘boy’’ and the ‘‘girl’’. However, it is made complicated because of their exterior. Both mothers don’t want their children to get married because of exterior factors. However, both dads oppose this view, and offer a definition that describe the essence of love.