25th September 2018

1.8 Significant Connections


Significant connections can be commonly found in a variety of texts. In the four texts that I will be touching on, Boy by Taika Waititi, Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, The Doll’s House by Katherine Mansfield and Dark Horse by James Napier Robertson, social issues are a key theme throughout all four. The main source of the social issues in these texts are the role models in these kids lives and how they have been exposed to gangs, violence and poverty as well as to racism all influenced by adult figures in their lives. They are not only exposed to all these things but are also failed by their adult figures and the system giving them no opportunity to make good of themselves and do something with their lives.

The storyline of boy consisted of a rural kid named Boy that is growing up on the east coast of the North Island with his little brother Rocky and his cousins under the guidance of their grandmother after their mother died when Rocky was born. Boy has always thought of his father, who has been in prison for the majority of Boy’s life, as this heroic adventurer who is going to come and take them away to live with him. His dream is short lived as when his father turns up while his grandmother is away at a funeral in Wellington he fails to live up to Boys expectations. Watching this as a viewer is hard as we can see this little boy like any, aspiring to be like his father but, like a lot of kids in New Zealand, Boy is let down by his father who he has looked up to all his life. He was even so proud of his father that even at school he would boast about him, i quote; “My dad’s not here right now. He’s a busy man. He’s a master carver, deep sea treasure diver, the captain of the rugby team … When he comes home, he’s taking me to see Michael Jackson, LIVE. The end.  Often reality is different from our perceptions.

He then returns to the classroom setting, where students are misbehaving and the teacher is smoking a cigarette out an open window. It is when he sits down that one of his classmates Kingi says “Yo man, you’re a liar. You’re dad’s not overseas. He’s in jail for robbery … Same cell block as my dad.” to which Boy replies with “shut up Kingi”. From just this reply here, we can see that Boy really does believe that his dad is an outgoing adventurer and sees him as role model but we learn that what his classmate said is the sad reality that he comes to face when his dad returns home. Parents are the main example in a child’s life and if a child is deprived if this role model in their life they don’t get the guidance that they need to fulfil their potential they have to do something with their life. This text is a direct example of this as Bo is like kids all over New Zealand that are born into environments that involve gangs and crime with a dysfunctional family that fail them in life.

The Dark Horse is a film directed  by James Napier Robertson based on a true story of the life of the New Zealand chess champion and Mental health patient Genesis Potini also known as “The Dark Horse”. Despite Genesis suffering from a severe bipolar disorder he volunteers to coach a group of disadvantaged kids how to play chess in the hopes of giving them a positive focus in life and steer them away from getting involved in gangs and crime. Mana, the son of Genesis’s brother Ariki who he is staying with at the time, is to be patched into his dad’s gang, the Vagrants, on his birthday but after following Genesis to the Dark Horse chess club he wants to compete in chess with them. After training with the Dark Horses for a while now, Mana learns that the tournament in Auckland they have been training for is the day that he is to be patched into his father’s gang. Parents or a parental figure are the main example in a child’s life and if a child is deprived if this role model in their life they don’t get the guidance that they need to fulfil their potential they have to do something with their life. Studies have shown that it is the environment that a child is brought up in and the role models that they have in their life that shapes who they are and how they act. This text is a direct example of this as Mana has has been raised in an environment full of violence and crime and therefore he doesn’t know any better than what his father has portrayed to him.  Due to this he had been disconnected from society and not shown that there can be more to his life than just violence and crime, which he comes to learn when genesis shows up and teaches him the art of chess. It was at this point that Mana realised that the could do more with his life and no longer had to just become a member of his dads

In this novel by Barry Crump, Wild Pork and Watercress one of the main characters in the book is Ricky Baker who is a Maori boy and this book is based on his life as he goes through the struggles of the social welfare system and being a young maori boy who is perceived as dumb for most of his life. As the story progresses throughout the story and Ricky gets taken in by his loving kind Auntie Bella we get to see that Ricky is not in fact just a dumb Maori boy but actually a capable young man that can is kind and loving life as he thrives in the element of the New Zealand country with his Aunt and Uncle. Wild Pork and Watercress has been written in first person with the narrative point of view being young Ricky Baker as he takes us through the struggles of his life and how he has overcome them.  Growing up in an environment where the was no one to love or trust, Ricky was very skeptical about moving to the country with his Aunt Bella and Uncle Hec as he had never had any guidance but as he comes to realise that being out in the country is his element he starts to really come into his own, finding things that his good and passionate about. After being failed by the education system and the role models in his life we could see that by the language he used such as “I knew they had me all wrong but there wasn’t much I could do about it” we can see that he is lacking this understanding that a parent would give. It was when Ricky was moved out to the country to live with his Aunt and Uncle in a loving environment that we saw a change in Ricky’s behavior for the better. This just shows that if kids are put in a loving environment with people that love and care for them, it can change their behavior for the better and they can learn to believe in themselves and make a better life for themselves.

The Doll’s House by Katherine Mansfield is a short story about a Rich family in New Zealand that is belittling another family in the community with the children being influenced by the parents to do so as well. The Burnells are a Rich Family that had a doll’s house that everybody but the little Keleveys ,who were from a lower class than the burnells, were allowed to go and see at the dolls house. With things said such as “So they were the daughters of a washerwoman and a gaolbird” by the Burnells, it is a direct reference to the mistreatment of lower class people back in those days. The whole theme of the story is showing the inequality that takes place in our world and that people think that they are better than others. This text is actually quite the opposite of the other 3 texts yet it has very significant connections to each of them all the same. Although the same connection of poor parenting is consistent in this text, it is in a different time era to the other 3 therefore changing the context of the situation. The classing of society was still around in 1922 when Doll’s house was written which therefore caused the discrimination of the little kelveys in the community which was influenced on the children by the parents of the “higher class”.  After reading all 4 texts it would be interesting to see what it would be like if there were maori people in the picture like in the other texts to see how they would be treated in comparison.

All 4 of these texts are connected by the social issue of poor parenting that influences the kids into acting/behaving in a certain way. Ricky from Wild Pork and Watercress is a exact example that even though a kid might come from a troubled background where they might have misbehaved, they don’t have to stay like that because as we’ve been shown, it just takes a caring supportive environment to get them on track.

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About Tracey Hames

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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