Thursday, March 3, 2011

To which homeland does the boy belong?

As I read Sons for the Return Home, I began to wonder why New Zealand affected the boy differently than his parents and brother. The family went to New Zealand fully aware that they were going to go back to their home in Samoa. However, once they return, the boy does not adjust as his family does, and longs to go back to New Zealand. Why is this so?

Spending much of his life in New Zealand rather than Samoa may be the cause for him identifying more with New Zealand once he goes back to Samoa. As the youngest member of the family, he spent the least amount of time in Samoa and therefore, it is not unusual that he would rather stay in New Zealand since he has become so accustomed to it.

Growing up in New Zealand, not in Samoa, the boy became accustomed to New Zealand as his homeland and has adopted Palagi ways. For instance, he dates a Palagi girl and in turn adapts some of her culture. For instance having a Palagi girlfriend may be the cause for the boy’s desire for privacy when his family culture is based on community. Wendt writes, “’I want some privacy,’ he heard himself say. He saw his parents look at each other. They just didn’t understand what he meant. To them everything in the family was to be shared; pain was to be borne together by the family group. ‘I want to be left alone with my own fears,’ he tried to explain” (133-134). This parallels an earlier scene in which the girl explains the difference between their two families. She enjoys his family better for she says, “It’s good to be in a real home. . .In my home we have endless privacy. We want to be left alone to our terrible thoughts and fears” (70). He desires the privacy that the girl wished was not in her family. The boy is slowly going away from the Samoan culture, as he desires a Palagi family characteristic. Later, once back in Samoa, he feels like a stranger in what is supposed to be his homeland. Wendt writes, “So many years preparing and waiting for this return. So many years and now nothing more than an uncomfortable seat, as a stranger, in a bus packed with the mythical characters of the legends his parents had nourished him on for so long” (173). However, after leaving a homeland for a long period of time and adopting aspects from another culture, one’s homeland may change as he or she becomes more familiar and comfortable within a different homeland, among different people.

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