As our understanding of post-colonialism continues to form and take shape, new emotions, reactions and examples push us to expand this understanding. In his Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies, John Ashcroft writes that “materiality and locality of various kinds of post-colonial experience are precisely what provide the richest potential for post colonial studies” (Ashcroft, 190). In Albert Wendt’s Sons for the Return Home we encounter unique colonial experiences between a boy and a girl, a boy and his surrogate homeland and a boy and his native homeland.
While some elements of these experiences are similar to past Homelands texts, others add new facets to our post-colonial study. For example, at the novel’s end the boy seems almost contented with not having a homeland. The girl who allowed him to accept New Zealand as a home and who was so intimately bound to his discovery of the country has left him. He feels alien in his native Samoa and unable to relate to the Samoan way of life. In the final chapters Wendt describes the boy’s grandfather as seeing “too clearly, too honestly” (Wendt, 203). Does one’s ability to truly see two societies with all of their quirks, traditions, prejudices and gifts render us unable to feel at ease in either one? This example focuses Ashcroft’s “various kinds of post-colonial experience” onto a specific and individual example, a very root that adds to the diverse nature of post-colonialism.
The initial discomfort and awareness experienced by the boy in response to never quite feeling at home is seemingly conveyed through Wendt’s structure of the novel. Parts I and II offer us the pieces of a story which we must puzzle together. It is within the story that we know of the boy’s alienation. As Part III opens, the account of Samoan culture, tradition and belief seems to transport us to some other Homelands text as Wendt momentarily departs from the story of the boy. This switch from narrative to cultural profile makes us almost uncomfortable as we become suddenly aware that we have been transported worlds away from the boy’s life in New Zealand. The boy’s story offers us a different view of Homelands—the inability to know exactly where we belong.