Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Name Game: A Love Story in the Pacific

            Albert Wendt builds the dissonance between the Samoan’s and papalagi or New Zealanders through dialogue.  More pointed, the dialogue in chapters four, fifteen, and twenty-six, reveal the push-pull mechanism that dictates the prodigal love story in Sons for the Return Home.  The cultures of both the Samoan and papalagi impose divisiveness for our two lovebirds.  The tone is set in chapter four when the protagonist even states, “’because they humiliate you,’ he said to his mother. ‘We’ve been here for nearly thirteen years and they still treat us as strangers. As inferiors’” (13).  This is indicative of the main character’s uneasiness with his current position; one of loneliness and isolation because he is the obvious minority.  As an insult to injury, the principle is condescending to his leading Samoan pupil and his parents, by prefacing the success as relative to other Samoans, not other students.  In chapter fifteen, our male character learns around Christmas time that his mother likes his girlfriend but doesn’t approve of her.  Wendt writes, “’she doesn’t know our customs, our ways of doing things. And our people wont accept her…our way of life, our people, may destroy her’” (73).  When your mother cautions you in such a way, it drops your stomach and really brings uncertainty to the table.  He is stripped of his confidence or at least his footing; his mother’s sentiments put the Samoan way of life in contrast to the white New Zealand way.  This also portrays that sometimes the minority, in order to stay intact and strong, isolate themselves for the sake of pride and tradition. Her quote, possibly, reminds and enforces the oppression that the minority has endured.  In chapter twenty-six the mother creates another obstacle for the love story.  She says, “my own son married to a papalagi. My grandchildren to be half-castes. It cannot be!... There they [her parents] don’t want her to. All palagi discriminate against us” (135).  She continues to build incredulity in her son’s mind, and shows that both sides (Samoan and papalagi) are racist.  The racism throughout the story restrict and prevent the ability to mend a relationship, Wendt depicts racism and its spectrum in different ways.  

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