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NCEA Paper on Identity

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    “Some people think I am a bloody Maori… a typical pakeha… a blasted asian… a flaming coconut. ” These are examples of stereotyped identity. Identity is the thing which makes people unique. It is the thing which separates individuals from other people. It also brings people together and makes the bond between them stronger. Although identity can also connect, it can also be something which alienates people from ever connecting.

    Through the four texts, “The Fat Boy” by Owen Marshall, “You, the Choice of my Parents” by Konai Helu Thaman, “Bred in South Auckland” by Glenn Colquehoun and “Wild Dogs under my Skirt” by Tusiata Avia the ideas of alienation and identity will be better explored. Throughout these texts, one idea which helped connect them together was the idea of alienation. This is expressed by the two texts “The Fat Boy” by Owen Marshall and “You, the Choice of my Parents” by Konai Helu Thaman. The Fat Boy” talks about a woman who is mentally preparing herself for the pain and damage of having a traditional tattoo imprinted on her body. In the poem, she talks about how she wants her tattoo to look.

    She also talks about what she wants it to signify whether through emotions or through pain. “You, the Choice of my Parents” by Konai Helu Thaman is told in a combination of first and second person. It talks about a woman who has been thrown into an arranged marriage with someone to whom she has no feelings towards. These two texts are perfect examples of alienation. The Fat Boy” by Owen Marshall is the only short story text which I have used in this report. This short story is about a boy who just recently moved into the small town. In this small community, a string of crimes happen which the community immediately blame on the fat boy because he is the only one the community has no idea of who he is. Because of this, the community’s “victims” confront him and kill him. This short story is a perfect example of alienation because this fat boy was immediately blamed for something which he didn’t commit straight after arriving into town.

    For example, “McNulty’s warehouse burnt down in November. The owner made particular mention to the police of the fat boy”. In “You, the Choice of my Parents” the bride talks in the last paragraph “…but when my duties are fulfilled my spirit will return to the land of my birth”. This poem talks about a woman forced into a marriage which she wants no part of but feels that it’s a part of her duty to fulfil it. The mood in the third stanza is sympathy towards the bride as she tells the groom her alienation and that after she has done er duty, her spirit will return to her own family. These two poems are linked and tell of alienation perfectly in two ways. The first, “The Fat Boy”, tells of alienation through being the minority. With the fat boy being new in town, nobody likes him or trusts him. So when the crimes start happening, everybody immediately blames the fat boy. Secondly, the other text, “You, the Choice of my Parents” speaks of a willing alienation. The bride alienates herself from the events in the hope that it won’t be affecting her but accepts her duties which she has to perform.

    Alienation is something which can be broken down into two things: through the choice of the person for various reasons (ie. to preserve their own identity and to prevent change happening to them) or through the perspectives of people onto a certain individual (ie. a majority-minority situation). Many times its through being in the minority that you become alienated. It can happen in everyday environments from school, work and even in the community. In schools where one race is the majority, the races which do not belong to the majority often attach themselves to each other.

    This can be seen by the majority as not wanting to fit in with them and so alienate the minority from them altogether. For example, De La Salle College is a perfect case in which alienation occurs. Even though it is not intentional it is seen that all students of pacific island origin are all comfortable and friendly with one another but if there was a European they would unintentionally alienate them simply through their skin colour. The text, “The Fat Boy” by Owen Marshall was another example of this idea of alienation.

    However in special cases, people like Oromo Abeba Mohammed in “Coffee and Allah” directed by Sima Urale are alienated by their own choice to preserve something they wish which in this case is her connection to her Muslim culture and religion. In the end of the film, she decides to open up to the community who is trying to welcome her in and starts to change in herself. The second text, “You, The Choice of my Parents” by Konai Helu Thaman was also an example of alienation through choice. Identity is a strong value which makes us who we are. Without it, we have no idea of who we are.

    In the texts “Wild Dogs under my Skirt” by Tusiata Avia and “Bred in South Auckland” by Glenn Colquehoun, the idea of identity is better explored in these texts. “Wild Dogs under my Skirt” is a poem of dark humour, cultural pride and strong identity. This text is important in talking about identity because it goes more into depth about an important part of Samoan culture, the malu. The malu is the female’s version of the male’s tatau. In this poem the woman talks about what she wishes her tattoo to either inflict fear or pain on her peers.

    For example, “I want my legs as sharp as dogs’ teeth, wild dogs, wild Samoan dogs, the mangy kind that bite strangers. ” This not only tells us that one of the patterns on her malu will be of dog’s teeth but she also wants it to signify that the teeth belong to feral dogs who would attack in a heartbeat. “Bred in South Auckland” by Glenn Colquehoun has fun with racial stereotypes. In it, he talks about certain ethnicity groups and stereotypes them with things everyone thinks they do. For example, the first stanza talks about what everyone thinks a Maori is. I drive a car that is falling apart…I eat too much fried bread. I am late to meetings. I go to housie. ” These are typical examples of which everyone thinks a Maori should have. The linking factor between these two texts is obviously identity. Through identity, the texts show that while “Bred in South Auckland” gives a more comical, more generalised explanation of identity, “Wild Dogs under my Skirt” goes more into depth with its analysis on the traditional art of the malu and its traditional design.

    Identity is the strongest spiritual connection someone can have without making a religious commitment. It is not only something you can find on your passport or i. d but something which links you towards other people and can help speed the bonding process into a more meaningful relationship. Identity can be shown in many ways. It doesn’t have to be limited through speech but can also be shown visually like in “Wild Dogs under my Skirt” how the woman is in the process of her malu.

    Another example of this would be “Ta Tatau” by Emma Kruse Va’ai which talks of a man who is also in the process of his tattoo, called the tatau. This short story is told in the view of his little daughter who is trying to understand what is happening around her as the tatau not only affects the father but the whole family too. Many people in my family have jumped at the chance to have a tatau because they feel that it is a link to their motherland and helps them to keep their identity strong in a land where it can be easily forgotten.

    This idea is emphasised in the two texts “Wild Dogs under my Skirt” by Tusiata Avia and “Bred in South Auckland” by Glenn Colquehoun. While “Bred in South Auckland” doesn’t take emphasis on a single identity, it stereotypes the four identities into something everyone can relate themselves to. In conclusion through the four texts, “The Fat Boy” by Owen Marshall, “You, the Choice of my Parents” by Konai Helu Thaman, “Bred in South Auckland” by Glenn Colquehoun and “Wild Dogs under my Skirt” by Tusiata Avia, the two ideas of alienation and identity.

    Through these two ideas, it is shown that there are two kinds of alienation which is inflicted on a person, alienation through being in the minority and alienation through the choice of the recipient. Also identity is something which everyone has but not all hold on too. It is something which is taken over through time and corrupted to the point that the person has no knowledge of it being corrupted until it is pointed out by other people. Because of this, it is important that people know what their identity is and make sure they know it because the repercussions of not knowing is something which is unspeakably huge.

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    NCEA Paper on Identity. (2016, Dec 02). Retrieved from

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