English Essay (research)
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My research into the short stories of Witi Ihimaera clearly shows common themes within his writing. I have read seven of his short stories, Beginning of the Tournament, Fire on Greenstone, A game of cards, The Whale, In Search of the Emerald City, The Other Side of the Fence, and Yellow Brick Road. In reading these stories, 4 common themes can be found within his writings, the importance of family and non-materialistic, non-competitive simple life, importance of preserving Maori artefacts and traditions, Maori moving to the city and forgetting their culture, and Racism. Witi Ihimaera used symbolism, colloquial language and the use of Maori words to highlight these issues and give us a deeper understanding of them in his writing of the short stories I have read, and researched.
What issues does Witi Ihimaera deal with?
Importance of family and non-materialistic, not-competitive simple life:
Witi Ihimaera uses the theme of family and non-materialistic simple life as a dominant and continuing theme throughout his short stories that I researched. The Maori characters in the stories have a sense of love for their families and find a joy in coming together as one to enjoy their family and friends. The main character in Beginning of the Tournament demonstrate to his Pakeha friend how important the family is and how the point of the hockey tournament held every year in Waituhi is coming together as a family and taking space from the world of needing things, wanting thing, and being busy. “The game is important, but its the meeting together thats more important. Meeting together and laughing together and having fun together So we make the most of these days… We gossip, we laugh and when the tournament is over, we weep…This is a tournament, yes; but more then that, its the gathering of family..” All the family is to be involved in, a simple thing such as a hockey tournament it can be fun yet simplistic, without worry, and the family still makes time for each other despite other things going on in their lives.
The Maori families come together to support each other in times of need, but also, to be together and share in each others company. Fire on Greenstone shows how attached the Maori are to their family and the simple things that hold them together. Nanny Tama has a home that is welcome to everyone and belongs to everyone, “This room was the whanau; the whanau was this room.” After the death of Nanny Miro, the family support and love is recognisable, they are there for each other in time of need. “..they would sing songs, and talk about the old days.” The singing of songs is just a simple yet effective thing to unite the family, and the playing of cards is also a fun game that Witi Ihimaera uses as a symbol to show the coming together of the Maori family of all ages to do something together.
The Maori family are content and happy with how things are in their lives, they are happy to help each other and do not need to show off their money and boast to their other family members. A Game of Cards shows the younger Maori coming home to be with their Nanny Miro when she is dying. Nanny Miro was always happy to help the other members of her family, “and all this haddit whanau being broke all the time and coming to ask me for money..” The playing of cards again shows simplicity as they are non-materialistic in coming together, noone ever wins and they all cheat but they all have a lot of fun in the process of playing and laughing.
The theme of family and non-materialistic, non-competitive simple life is shown as a common theme in the stories, the Maori families come together in time of need, and support each other. The joy in coming together is present, as so is the simplicity of the things they do, such as hockey tournament or playing cards, or singing songs.
The theme of racism is one that Witi Ihimaera uses strongly in his short stories and it proves something that is important to him as racism is a theme that people often have very strong opinions about. He shows the struggle of Maori moving into a Pakeha community, with the pressure of having to fit in right away and not being accepted because of their race.
The comments that Jack Simmons makes in, The Other Side of the Fence show how judgmental Pakeha are towards the Maori race. The Heremaia children are thought of as annoying and frustrating by Jack Simmons as the children come from a different background. They are very open and make themselves at home within the Simmons house and Jack does not like the idea of that. He thinks they are intruding. “Jack Simmons had since come to understand that borrowing was a common Maori trait; whats yours is mine, whats mine is yours. Maybe it was an acceptable practice among Maori but this city suburb was not a Maori community. The sooner they understood that, the better. Times had changed.” Jack Simmons was not open to accept their upbringing and culture so he made racist comments towards them instead, blaming them for everything without any proof at all, and not wanting them inside his house. “Everybody knew what Maoris were like. You conveniently forgot the good points about the children. They helped you too forget.” Jack Simmons are used as a figure of the Pakeha community and showed how the Pakeha community feel about the Maori coming into their community and in their opinion invading. He is only assuming the way Maori act and stereotyping them by being racist towards them, when it is not always necessary.
The family in The Yellow Brick Road are only on their travels to Wellington to start a new life in the Emerald City (Wellington) to get a good, stable job when the encounter racism from a Pakeha. “Oh whats the use? You Maoris are all the same. Dumb bloody horis.” This is showing that Pakeha people are stereotypical to the Maori culture and believe that none of them are smart or friendly.
Importance of preserving Maori artifacts and traditions:
In the Maori culture, traditions and artifacts are very important, and the thought of losing the traditions is daunting and upsetting for the Maori community. The traditions and artifacts are important in the culture of being Maori and keeping the Maori spirit and community alive and fulfilled.
The reality and sadness of the Maori traditions being lost, is revealing that the Maori culture is being forgotten and disrespected. The Whale is about the sadness of the grandfather who is struggling to accept that the Maori culture is dying out and the sadness he has for the younger ones