Monday, September 13, 2010

Changing Views

In the second half of The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera, Koro Apirana continues to be antithetic to change until events force him to alter his way of thinking. More specifically, Koro Apirana still insists that Kahu means nothing to him and that women do not play a role in the sacred aspects of the Maori tribe. Ironically, Kahu is the one who saves Koro Apirana and the Maori people. This climax event leads to the turning point of Koro Apirana’s belief that women do not play a vital, sacred role.

Although many signs have shown Koro Apirana that Kahu was the chosen one to lead the Maori people, Koro Apirana either ignored these signs or was ignorant to what these events meant and he continued to ignore Kahu. He admits that he “…don’t give a hang about women” (80) and says that they do not have any power. To Kahu, he also says, “Go away. You are of no use to me.” (82) One of the most interesting aspects of the relationship between Koro Apirana and Kahu is that Kahu, no matter what, loves him while he continuously pushes her away. Ihimaera leaves an important question to be answered by the reader: whether Koro Apirana knew what the different events meant, for example, when Kahu bit his toe, and still ignored them or if Koro Apirana truly did not understand what the foreshadowing events meant. Although it could be argued either way, I would submit that his backlash against women could be proof that he actually did know what the events meant, chose to ignore them, and used his feelings against women to support his belief that the signs meant nothing.

At the end of the story, Koro Apirana’s thoughts about women take a turn in the opposite direction—he begins accept women as they are and realizes that Kahu is the heir to the Maori tribe. The first sign that his feelings toward women in general are changing occurs when Nanny Flowers offers to gather the women to help support the men. This represents one of the first pleasant interactions between Nanny Flowers and her husband. The narrator says that, “The sound of the women assembling in the dining room under Nanny Flower’s supervision came to us like a song of support.” (115) More drastically, when Nanny Flowers and Kahu are in the hospital, Koro Apirana’s attitude completely changes—he accepts blame for what had happen and says that he should have known that Kahu was the chosen leader (145). Sometimes, it takes a big event for us to realize something so obvious that stands before us. The climax event in this story was so great that it made Koro Apirana change his beliefs from strictly traditional and solid, to a more accepting and modern way of thinking.

Koro Apirana grew from a character that did not think highly of women, a very traditional view, to a character that realized that even a woman could hold a sacred place in the tribe.

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