In class we spoke about how one achieves freedom in each of the books we have read thus far, and I began to think how desperately Oilei wants freedom from his pain. His pain is preventing him from living his life and is confining him to his house, only leaving it to see doctors and dottores. I cringe every time I read Hau’ofa’s fully detailed descriptions of Oilei’s anguish. I feel so bad for Oilei for the pain that he is enduring and the fact that each doctor / dottore (although saying they are trying to help) seem to be using him as a ginny pig with their many procedures that just result in further pain for him; for instance, when Seru Draunikau who is considered the top Tipotan dottore gave him the kautambu leaves which were only used when confronting enemies. This dottore’s mistake was close to ruining Oilei’s life as he almost murdered his wife.
This pain is also changing how the villiage sees Oilei. They used to see him as a famous boxer and businessman, but now see him as a weak man. His wife screams to him saying, “Look at what you’ve done! You’ve shamed us all! Everyone here knows what you’ve got” (13). Their homeland seems to be based on what others think about them. For instance, they both are desperately trying to hide Oilei’s condition, but once it is discovered, Makarita is embarrassed to walk through the village and Oilei is deeply ashamed. It seems that his homeland turns against him quite often; in this case, when Oilei is at his lowest point in his life, the village is constantly talking about him, and when he was at the highest point in his life “as a still-famous former boxing champion, a successful peasant farmer, a pillar of Korodamu society and the sprawling district, a father of outstanding university students and a nominee for a vacant Senate seat. . . he was stabbed from behind” (63). Oilei remembers this event many times during his illness and “despaired at the unfairness of it all” (63). He is stabbed during the pinnacle of his achievement, and now is facing what seems to be an incurable illness. This made me think, is your home really a home when you feel a loss of hope or lack of freedom? When you feel constrained by pain or others’ opinions of you?
We all may feel a sense of hopelessness at one point in time or feel the lack of freedom during some instances in life, but it is how we overcome these events in which we are able to grow into stronger people. Perhaps, Oilei’s illness will bring him closer to his homeland, his wife, and himself. Already, he has a slight realization about women when Hau’ofa talks about Oilei bleeding. Hau’ofa writes, “He [Oilei] had resigned himself to wearing the cotton pads, changing them several times a day. He now understood in part what it was like to be a woman” (42). Also, at the beginning of the novel, Oilei’s wife was ready to leave him, like many times before, but came back and helped Oilei with his illness. There have been many instances in my life where I have seen unfortunate events make relationships stronger and in turn strengthen a homeland. For instance, 9/11 is a devastating event to remember, however, I still remember how my school responded to the event. When I heard about what had happened, I was in 6th grade in my New Jersey school where many of my classmates were crying due to fear that something had happened to their parents who work in NYC. However, as a community, my class came together, called parents, prayed together, and spoke about how we felt. After that day, our class became stronger as relationships were strengthened.
Oilei may be suffering from his horrible illness, but there is a possibility that his homeland will be strengthened because of what he learns from his pain, and may achieve a sense of freedom from the gossip of the town, if not freedom from his illness.