Outsider Inside/Mommy Dearest
Many of the themes from Albert Wendt’s “Sons for the Return Home” reminded me of many things that I’ve heard from multiple family members regarding our homeland, Jamaica. The one that resonated with me the most was Cara’s question about “living somewhere, just to end up leaving”. Many of my cousins came to America, strictly to go to college. They used to swear to God that as soon as they get their degrees, it was straight back to Jamaica for them. America was too cold, too this and too that for them. They were simply here, like the boy, to further their education and go back to where they called home. At the same time, their motivation to pursue and education outside of Jamaica was because they wanted to. Their parents were the ones who stayed in Jamaica while they came, of their own free will, unlike the boy who was in New Zealand with his entire family, waiting to return to Samoa after his schooling.
When the family finally returns to Samoa, the boy feels more out of place than he had in New Zealand (which I think he felt because he was raised to believe he was an outsider). All the ideals that his mother had gone out of his way to tell him about his homeland, in an attempt to get him to not stray to far into the New Zealand lifestyle, turned out to be just that, ideals. When this mother (and I specifically single her out because she was just soooooo infuriating throughout the novel) saw her child achieve some sort of happiness in this place where he had spent twenty years of his life, through the palagi girl, she did everything it took to break them up. However, when she went back to Samoa, she used everything that she hated about New Zealand, the language and customs for example, to impress the people in the village in Samoa. It’s almost as if the family moved to New Zealand just so the boy could further his education, just so they could return to show how much better they were than the group of people they claimed that they belonged to.
This blog was supposed to focus on how the boy felt more at home when he was on the trip with the girl than he did when he went to the place that he had been told for the last twenty years. However, he wouldn’t be that way unless he was conditioned to be that way! By who, you may ask? His mother! The mother slowly worked her way onto my list of top five characters that I just cannot stand in novels. The fact that she force fed her boys stories about the beautiful Samoa coast and rich village life compared to the shallow and unsatisfying New Zealand life in an attempt to get them to not stray too far is just sickening. As a parent, sometimes you have to put what you want for your child on the back burner, if that’s not what they want and if what you want for them is causing them pain. This woman went so far as to having her grandchild aborted because she was afraid of what people would think!
Clearly, despite the fact of the boy not feeling comfortable in New Zealand, that is more his homeland than Samoa is because that’s where he grew up. That’s where he went to school and met his girlfriend, and felt at home. Compared to when he went to a place that he had to be reminded was his homeland that he hated. Someone’s homeland shouldn’t be a place where they have to be constantly reminded of. I’m not saying that he is completely disconnected from Samoa, but just because he was born there doesn’t automatically tie him to it.