Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Death and Toki in Potiki
I really appreciate the way in which the story is told. I can tell how this culture operates and the degree of importance they place on storytelling, their land, bonds between people, and death. What I liked best about my reading this novel was that I was able to gleam these things without the author telling me outright. That being said, I would like to explore the idea of death in Potiki. When the mother of Hemi and Mary dies, the language used observes "Absent from among the mourners was Hemi's and Mary's mother, but she was present in the photographs against the wall, and what I knew by then was that she was present amongst us in death" (27). It seemed to me an interesting way to communicate that their mother had died. Clearly, it seems the case that their cultural understanding of what it means to die differs from Western culture. the mother is dead, but she is not gone, she is just there in a different form. This makes for a home with an interesting atmosphere, one where spirits past and present are still in relation with one another. Even with the character of Toko, we learn that his coming into being has not been easy, and that he is named after the dead. The grandmother names him after her dead brother and it wold seem that he goes on to take special gifts, presumably because he has this connection with the dead. I think it is also interesting that Toko describes his mother potentially killing both him and herself when he was young by saying "she could have kept walking with me out into the water until the sea closed over us, and we would both have belonged to the fishes. But my sister Tangimoana, in her red shirt, came and snatched me away from my first drowning and hurried home with me" (42). He doesn't say that he would have died, but stresses that he would have lived in a different way, belonging to the fishes. When Toko does finally die, he doesn't just liner amongst the people in death, but becomes eternalized as well in Potiki. I think the novel is challenging our perception of death in a way that challenges Western definitions and reveals many things about the people's way of life.
Posted by Marian Okpali at 9:30 AM