Identify a theme in "A Way of Talking."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the most dominant themes in "A Way of Talking" is the condemnation of racial insensitivity and prejudice that exists amongst human beings.  In this setting, the racial disharmony exists between Jane the Pakeha and Rose and her people, the Maori.  Their exchange represents how many of the Europeans who have settled in New Zealand have little idea of the hurt they have inflicted upon the native Maori.  There is a "way of talking" in the exchange that reflects much in way of hurt, insensitivity, and a sense of displacement.  

It is in this where Hera recognizes that she needs to develop her own "way of talking."  The "way of talking" that Hera embraces is one in which she will stand up for her family and her ancestry.  Hera realizes that the only way to survive and prosper in the modern setting is through the development of a "way of talking" in which individual identity is asserted and pride in oneself is established.  From wishing to avoid confrontation and demonstrating a hesitancy or weakness, Rose understands that strength comes from "a way of talking."  When one appropriates a "way of talking" or an identity that is confident in oneself and willing to stand for it even when others do not, there is strength evident.  Seeing how her sister starts this process, Hera vows to finish it. In this, the theme of the story is the need to assert one's own identity, to find one's own voice in "a way of talking."

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