Albert Wendt’s novel Sons for the Return Home brilliantly shows just how dangerous ignorance can be. As Wendt explores multiple layers of cultural intolerance within the South Pacific, his work re-instates the fact that the easiest way to find your true colors is to become lost in the unknown. He promotes the need for humans to focus in on, as well as learn from the qualities that set us all apart from one another. Wendt has shown me that the most valuable knowledge stems from the idiosyncrasies of others, and when we find ourselves continuously and uncontrollably drawn to such lessons, then we have stumbled upon pure bliss. The boy finds the most genuine sense of love in his palagi girlfriend; a love so sincere that he finally feels at home simply in her presence.
For you, she has become an extension of who and what you have grown into through knowing her. Without her, you would be much less than you are now. As you walk the main street of this city which, through loving her, you have learnt to accept, under the dark dome of this sky that covers this country, which through loving her, you have grown to know all its moods and sickness and loneliness and joy and colours and cruelty, this what your heart tells you. She is you; the very pores of your breath” (Wendt, 129).
It is only fitting that the boy comes to appreciate and finally accept his adopted homeland of New Zealand after falling in love with the girl. Not only has she provided him with passionate love, yet she breaks down racial barriers and shows to him exactly what it is the land has to offer. She provides him with the comfort he has been looking for all along – the comfort of belonging to a place a people. Even after he is enraged with her for shooting down his first hawk, he is able to overcome his anger and prove his love to her. All too often people use anger to further separate themselves from those who bring grief into their life, yet anger may sometimes bring us closer together. If we are willing to at least try to understand what it is about others that sets us off, we can be provided with priceless insight into our own internal structure. When such a bond is formed, there necessity for a permanent house is somewhat diminished. As long as two lovers are together, they should feel at home anywhere in the world.
I’m not going to lie, I completely expected Sons for the Return Home to reel us in at the end with an emotional reunion between the two characters, proving to the hopeless romantics that true love never dies. Initially I was upset with the fact that his only romp in the second half of the book involved the brainwashed bellhop. Yet as I sat and reflected upon the novel as I prepared to write this blog, I quickly realized that it was the only way Wendt could have ended his work successfully. Although he was able to find a sense of home within his true lover, their reunion would have killed his location in “permanent exile” (Wendt, 204). Just as his father highlights to him at the end of the book, it is not in his nature to accept things for the way they are; things can always be brought another level deeper. For him, that something is his quest to return to his fleeting feeling of comfort. His love with her was too perfect; there was little knowledge left to gain from the relationship without starting family together.
In time I grew to love the novel’s ending, as I myself relate to the character and gain valuable knowledge from his bravery. He is returning to the land that he once hated, yet it is the same land that taught him how to love. It is the land that showed him the benefits of an open-mindset, as well as the ruthless behavior of those too primitive to keep one. He plans remain vague, yet he seems excited for what is to come and is ready to enter the future with an open mind. I too will soon be departing from my adopted home, and being that I have absolutely no idea what my future holds in store, I can only hope to keep a similarly straight head on my shoulders. He has reminded me that there is no time to focus on that which brings us down for, “He was alive; at a new beginning. He was free of his dead” (Wendt, 217).