Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Sea in Potiki

From the beginning of Patricia Grace's novel Potiki, it is very obvious that nature and its beauty, movement, and power, is extremely important to the people of the Maori community.  It is a constant presence in the lives of these people and means a great deal to them. Their home is surrounded by nature: by the sea, the hills, the sand, and the mountains and their continued happiness and the perpetuation of their community depends on their environment. This is why they fight so hard to defend it against the "Dollarman" when they want to turn their ancestral lands into a corporate, tourist circus. The imagery that particularly struck me was that of the sea, throughout the entire narrative. At the beginning of the story, Roimata tells the reader that, "we live by the sea, which hems and stitches the scalloped edges of the land" (15). The land is the Maori peoples' birthright and is a large part of who they are and their culture, therefore the sea shapes their way of life. Tangimoana is described "as sharp-edged as the sea rocks"; her name comes from the sound the sea makes. The sea is a constant presence in the lives of the people; when Mary is on the beach with the "the soft whisperings of the sea" accompany them (22).
        When Roimata returns home after being at school, the thing she watches from the train window is the sea and the seagulls, which are free. She then walks along the shore rather than the road to be free from recognition because there is "freedom on the shore, and rest" (18). The sea and the shore are  freeThe sea is wild and untamable, the people in the Maori community do not try to control nature, but protect it. Conversely, the "Dollarman" who tries to convince the community that they can profit from selling their land and that he will "give families, school children, an opportunity to see the sea life", tries to control the sea (92). The rebuttal of that statement is that the dolphins, killer whales, and seals are wildlife and cannot be made to play with the locals or perform. The natives don't want to give up their nature and their culture because it is like giving up their freedom when they had "just begun to be free"(95). This is why it is heavily symbolic when the floods occur because, the sea, the representative of the Maori people's freedom, destroys that which is trying to take away their freedom.

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