Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Post-Colonial Romeo

            We have already discussed (almost wistfully) the potential that both parties involved in post-colonial literature—the natives and the invaders—could coexist and compromise with one another.  In the Wendt introduction, he says, “Much of our early literature saw the colonial and the indigenous as in irreconcilable opposition, the colonial as the evil destroyer; no benefits at all were seen in colonialism or the emergence of blends and mixtures and fusions of the indigenous and the foreign, even though our literature itself is living proof of that” (pg 4).  In Wendt’s novel, Sons for the Return Home, he takes this idea even further.  Not only are the natives and the evil destroyers blending, mixing and fusing, they are interpreting those words very physically.  Sex plays a vital role in a lot of this novel which is almost off-putting (maybe distracting is a better word) but it is important for the reader to believe that these two characters could fall in love so quickly and against all odds.
            And yet, the story stops short before there is the potential for them to create anything mutual.  There is no marriage, no baby, no white picket fence (I recognize that this is me now imposing the American dream), and no compromise.  Instead of the boy being forced to live in New Zealand or the girl being forced to immigrate to Samoa like their respective families feared, they both return to who they were meant to be before meeting each other.  Or do they?
            They have both been changed by the other.  There is no real indication of whether these changed are good or bad, only that they were necessary.  The changes are almost neutral.  His family has also been changed in more ways than their aversion to Samoan food and reluctance to go back to outdoor plumbing.  His father is more accepting and forgiving and his mother is more of a Kiwi.  There is no knowing how the girl’s family has changed except that she may have begun to change them through knowing the boy.  Wendt shows through a passionate love that changed two people how their empathy and compassion can ripple out towards their cultures.  It’s no different than Romeo and Juliet who knitted two families together despite irreconcilable differences.  It’s unfortunate that in stories like these, love doesn’t last as long as change.

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