Analyse how the lack of a clear outcome in at least TWO short stories you have studied makes the stories successful for you: Journey by Patricia Grace and The People Before by Maurice Shadbolt both look at land confiscation and compensation cases that occurred during the early colonization of New Zealand and their modern relevance today. Although both these authors approach this similar topic differently, both stories lack a clear outcome.
This is particularly effective for us as readers because it causes us to revaluate our preconceptions and prejudices regarding this issue and draw our own conclusions. We quickly discover the difficulty of reaching a truly successful outcome, and can therefore see the relevance that these types of cases have in our society today. The People Before by Maurice Shadbolt presents this issue intergenerationally, where the land was confiscated historically.
This story is from the viewpoint of a white boy whose father owns the land “through sweat and legal title” and who has spent much of this time “winning order from wilderness” in order to convert the land into a workable dairy farm. The father is presented to us as a hardworking man who served “in the war” and who toiled for many years to try build a sustainable life for his family. By presenting us with this strong image of the stereotypical farmer, almost seen as the backbone of this country, Shadbolt influences us as readers to feel a great deal of respect and loyalty towards him.
However this attitude is soon challenged by Shadbolt when we learn, towards the end of the story, that the land used to belong to a Maori tribe, who lived there for “hundreds of years” and were forced to move away from the area without compensation after it was “confiscated from the after the Maori wars” and “the European took the land”. Here Shadbolt cleverly presents to us as readers a situation where there are two sides that are both equally valid, but utterly different.
Because the land was confiscated by a previous generation, Maurice Shadbolt shows we as readers how it is now no longer possible to return the land without creating a new injustice, particularly towards the father who sees the land as “his green kingdom;” however Shadbolt also causes us to sense deeply the injustices brought against the Maori party who “fought many bloody battles” historically to keep the land, only to be forced to leave behind all that was dear to them.
Because, in the beginning, Shadbolt presents the father as a likeable and respected character, he lays down a foundation of conflict, because our loyalties to the two sides become so divided that we wish both parties could simply live on the land, yet we know this is not possible. We, the reader, are left with a sense of loss at the lack of conclusion drawn by the author, with the tribe returning to their new homes and the father feeling that “the land itself had heaped some final indignity upon him” which eventually leads him to sell the farm.
Because neither party here comes out better off as a result of the confrontation, we are left to puzzle over the ways we would have resolved this issue, therefore because a Shadbolt did not simply present us with a resolution, he effectively showed us the complication of these types of scenario’s which make them very relevant today. Whilst The People Before approaches this issue from a white boy’s perspective two generations after the confiscations occurred, Journey, by Patricia Grace approaches this issue completely differently.
The story set in present tense and is centred from within the mind of an old Maori man who is told by the government that he is unable to subdivide his land amongst his living nieces and nephews for their housing as it has already singled out the land “a development area”. He goes to the Wellington office to explain the issue to these representatives and feels that the Mana associated with his age in the Maori culture will ensure that he has respect amongst the Pakeha people, enabling him to explain his case better than the rest of his family who have already tried to resolve the issue.
However again the Pakeha are unable to see his values in land or his ideas and continue to demand that “there’ll be no more subdivision” and that the family will receive “compensation” for their losses. It is at this point that Grace makes the situation at hand more complex for readers because she, like Shadbolt, presents us with two equally valid by utterly different sides.
Patricia Grace causes conflict in the office because the European of the time, represented by the developer, see land as something of monetary value and security, making them unable to comprehend the old Maori man’s concept that the land is “your stamping ground” and that when all your ties are to that place, “there is no equal land”. However the old man, who has been brought up to believe that land was something that had deep historical and spiritual connections, cannot understand the young developer’s idea of exchanging his land for “equivalent land or monetary compensation”.
In this story, Grace show us as readers how these contradicting values result in anger and frustration from both parties. Whilst in the story Grace makes it easy to empathize with the old man’s spiritual need for his family to live on what’s been theirs since “before we were born”, because she presents us with a strong, proud but gentle man, she also makes us remember that the developer at the time was not particularly in the wrong either, and that his actions were simply reflecting his culture’s belief that all land is the same and could easily be fairly exchanged, which is just as correct and valid as the old Maori man’s ideas.
Therefore, like in The People Before we are unable to easily assign our loyalties. This, combined with the far from a successful outcome in the story, with the old man going away distraught and the developer building an even greater dislike of the Maori man, makes the story have a lasting effect on we readers because, through this complex scenario, Grace shows us the difficulty of finding either a right party or even a correct solution, because she shows readers that the success of the outcome will always differ when values differ.
Again, like in The People Before, we are left to try and reach our own conclusions, which make us see how relevant these issues are in today’s society. When we bring together the messages that both these unresolved stories show us, many lessons regarding land confiscation and compensation issues and how they are relevant to all New Zealander’s are made clear to us. Through The People Before and Journey we can see how hard it is to find just solutions in many of these land cases, and how this situation is rarely ever black and white, as many people make it out to be.
Most importantly, these two stories effectively show us that many of New Zealand’s issues today are the result of different values, which complicate issues because they are both equally legitimate. Treaty of Waitangi claims are still being processed today, many as a result of events shown in the stories. Too often we as a society dismiss these issues as irrelevant in today’s society, however by both Shadbolt and Grace leaving a lack of a clear outcome, we are shown that to the people involved, particularly the victims, there never was a resolution, and until there is, these issues will remain relevant.
The same emotions that we felt at the lack of closure to these stories, the victims have had to live with for the past 20 or more years, yet we tend to dismiss these emotions, almost assuming that they will fade with time. By creating such unclear and unsatisfactory endings we as readers may have felt anger, frustration, sadnesses, and confusion, so it is incredibly strange that we as a society think that people who were actually victims of this type of destructive colonization would feel any differently.
We tend to forget that human emotion is the only thing that has remained constant throughout our history, meaning that these feelings are highly unlikely to have changed, making all of these issues very relevant to every New Zealander. By presenting this issue through two view points and time settings, and by ensuring the end left us with a lack of clear outcome, these both Grace and Shadbolt effectively conveyed both the importance and significance of land confiscation and compensation cases today, because we experience the frustrations that the victims of these acts felt.
It also forces us try draw our own resolutions to the problem, however as both author’s divided our loyalties and presented us with sides that were both equally valid but utterly different, we come to see how difficult this is. Both these stories therefore emphasize the strength and status that these issues need to have in our modern society if we are to ever fully resolve them. By Emily Aitken.