Told in the first person by Hera, “A Way of Talking” focuses on the narrator’s older sister Rose. Hera is to be married soon, and Rose has come home to her Maori family so that she can take part in the wedding. She has been studying at the university in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, for an extended period. When members of the family meet her at the bus station in the village, they find that Rose has not changed and can still make them laugh with “a way of talking” that is distinctive to her. When they arrive home, Rose and the family have their evening meal, referred to as tea. After tea, they stay up talking into the night. This scene, although brief, creates a communal warmth in which three generations of the extended family participate.
The next day, the sisters drive over to the home of the local seamstress, Jane Frazer, to order Rose’s dress for the wedding. Jane is a Pakeha, the disparaging name the Maori have adopted for the European settlers they consider interlopers, so Hera fears that there may be an ugly scene once they meet because of Rose’s reputation for being outspoken. At first, all goes well as Rose and Jane talk about the university and about life in Auckland. While Hera listens, she suspects that Jane may be jealous of Rose’s freedom and her life in the city, even though the seamstress has a beautiful house and ostensibly all that she needs to be happy.
The narrator’s worst fears materialize when...
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