In the novel, The Whale Rider, the author strategically places hidden themes for the reader to gain a new knowledge and understanding of certain things. The themes which are most important and repetitive deal with: the significance of determination, connecting one with others, and lastly the idea of destiny.
In the Maori culture each person is expected to be become strong leaders who will do anything for their families and traditions. In the second half of Whale Rider we see this fiery determination throughout. In the first half of the book Koro pushes Kahu to the side whenever he can. This does not change in the second half, but no matter how many times he tries to stop her and ignore her, she keeps her head up and pays no mind to him, in the hope for him to come around one day and notice her strength. Once again this determination is shown in the beach scene, where an older woman defends a dead whale, and stands her ground with ‘eyes determined.’ Kahu once again shows her determination when she goes out to sea determined to save her people along with the whale. This fighting spirit is the motivation and heart of all the Maori people, and what Koro and the traditionalist are fighting so hard to protect and keep strong.
Power and tradition is not the only thing the Maori people are fighting to protect. One other key aspect of who they are is their oneness with the world in which they live. Each character at one point or another in the book is shown to have this oneness with nature, and with each other. This is one of the most reoccurring themes (and probably most important). The author was smart to use Kahu, who was stated to be the most important person in the family, to show this. At one point in the second half there is a raging storm where, “the wind began to whistle and shriek,” but Kahu was completely calm, soothing all the other people around her saying that it will be ok (p 109). This characteristic is one similar to the sea in how it stays calm under the water though there might be a trembling storm above. At another point it was stated that the, “sea was trembling with anticipation” when Koro and the other people were also, in waiting to see what will become of their future generations and traditions. Through use of personification the author connects the whales with humans and the sea with them also, by using verbs as ‘crashing’ and ‘climbing’ through the ‘skin of sea’. By adding these human qualities and actions we are meant to see the connecting of humans with nature. This ‘oneness of the world’ is a great goal of the Maori people and is the center of their being, which is explained by Koro who, when talking about the whale, states that, “If it lives, we live. If it does, we die.” (p117).
The final theme which I found as a key importance is the one of destiny. As each chapter came to an end the quote, “Haumi e, hui e, taiki e” was written, which translates to mean “let it be done.” This quote is the main belief of the Maori people and sends the message that what will happen ,will happen and it should be embraced and accepted. Each person in the book is searching for their destiny. We see it in the second half of the chapter when the original whale rider finds his place in his family, when Rawrii realizes his place at home, when Kahu swims out to take her place, and when Koro reaches his hands to the sky. It all comes together in the end when the mother whale tells Kahu to, “return to the kingdom of Tane and fulfill [her] destiny” (p150). So in the end the stars are aligned and the predetermined fate of the Maori people is settled.