Monday, January 31, 2011

Feb. 1 Blog

After reading the four assigned poems, I noticed all of them had a similar theme of love and people dealing with a difficult time. This theme is common in many works of literature and also in the real world. When I first started serving at Beans and Bread, a meal program located near the Inner Harbor, I saw first hand one of the most difficult things to experience-poverty. Most guests who come to Beans and Bread are materially poor, however they are definitely full of emotion and love for their families and friends.

In John Donne’s A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning and The Flea, he writes about a man and his lover. In A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, the man is leaving his lover and tells her not to feel sad because their souls are still one and they will be happy when they meet again. His leaving is not breaking their relationship, but only expanding it. In the latter of Donne’s poems, the man asks his lover not to kill the flea. He explains that inside the flea their blood and the flea’s blood is united as one inside the body. If the woman kills the insect, it would be killing a little bit of herself, the man and the flea and other than sucking some of the blood out of the humans, the man asks what other harm it has done to her.

Talking with some of the guests at Beans and Bread really opened my mind and gave me more awareness of the daily problems they face. Some of the guests at Beans and Bread have lost contact with their families and even though they are sad at the moment, they know it will be a joyous occasion when they unite with their families again. The guests know they are always together with their families through their blood and genes, similar to the blood inside of the flea.

Memorandum is not just a note to author Billie Bolton’s ex-boyfriend, it is her venting about the frustrating things he has said or done during their relationship. It seems like Bolton has put up with a lot of his complaints and stories and just wants him to know how she felt. All of the sentences of the poem start with the word “anytime” which emphasizes her angry emotions and her desire never to hear or talk to her ex-boyfriend again.

The poem, Fox Trot Fridays by Rita Dove, is about overcoming grief and worry by dancing and being with the ones you love. Dove suggests that when you are with someone that you care about and love, all the pain subsides. The poem also has a sense of the idea of living and thinking in the present and to enjoy the moment.

Serving at Beans and Bread and interacting and engaging with the guests there really helped me understand other people’s lives and the difficulties they have to go through. One time when I served at Beans and Bread, a mom with three young children came in to have a meal. After she left, I overheard one of the regular volunteers tell someone else that her husband had treated her badly and she had left him. Not surprisingly, she did not want anything to do with her ex-husband and did not like talking about that time in her life. Other guests at Beans and Bread suffer from emotional and mental pain their situation puts them in. When they talk to fellow guests and also to volunteers or even during the short prayer at the beginning of the meal, I can see them forget about their problems for seconds to sometimes a couple of minutes. I truly enjoy engaging in conversations with the guests knowing that when they ask about my studies at Loyola or my family at home, their mind is taken off their personal situations and dilemmas.

Week 2 Poetry

In “The flea,” “Valediction, Forbidding Mourning,” “Fox Trot Fridays,” and “Memorandum,” different aspects of love are displayed through word play. The authors use “real life occurrences” to shed light on their feelings.

John Donne’s “The Flea” is the story of a lover trying to convince his partner to have sex with him using a flea as an example of their love. Donne says how their blood is combined in the flea, and therefore should be combined in their love. He feels that the fact that their blood is so easily combined in nature, their love can do the same.

Rita Dove’s “Fox Trot Fridays” shows how a woman is able to escape the distresses of daily life on her Friday dances. Rita Dove uses dance the fox trot as her paradise. Through her poem she makes the reader feel like her dancing is her only way to get through daily life.

In Donne’s “Valediction, Forbidding Mourning,” Donne states how time apart between lovers should make the love grow stronger. He feels that the love should not be mourned, for it is not dying. Donne feels that strong love cannot be destroyed, and it will persevere and grow through time apart.

Unlike the other poems, Billie Bolton’s “Memorandum” focuses on the darker side of love. In this “poem,” Bolton is expressing the things that she is sick of. This poem expresses how love is not all “rainbows and butterflies.”

These poems all explain different forms of passion. My service taught me about a different kind of love. My junior year in high school, I went on a service trip to Tennessee. While there, we build two houses for families that were struggling to make ends meet. The family that we built the house for was a young couple with two boys. The father walked five miles to and from work every day. The gas prices had risen too high for him to drive to support his family. He worked all day and his family still struggled; yet somehow he was always positive. When he would arrive at the work site after coming home from work he would greet us all with a big smile. This was a man that was doing everything he could do give his family the best available opportunity. The love he showed for his family is not the love that we see in movies or read about. Passion is too often considered the greatest form of love. I have never seen the love that this man showed for his family equaled.

The love expressed in all of these stories is very different. The authors use different styles and touches to express their feelings. All the stories show that the authors passion is the greatest driving force for their actions.

Week 2 Blog Poems

Kevin Kelly

The four poems I read for this week’s blog all have the same commonality. All of the poems dealt with love and the different aspects of love.
The first poem I read for this week’s blog was Memorandum by Billie Bolton. The poem is written in an email form, which I thought was unique and strange at the same time. She is sending a breakup email to her boyfriend listing his four major flaws. His first flaw his interests, which include Lucy Liu’s legs, Shania Twain’s bellybutton and even his fantasy baseball addiction. The next was his cell phone obsession and how he needed to be with it 24/7 talking to his countless dames (girls) and worrying about who is on his speed dial list. His third flaw is his adolescent son. He spends countless hours talking about what gangs his son is in, how many times he has been to court, his swastika tattoo and etc. The last flaw she names his how he always talks about how many women he’s been with like it is a big competition. She shows that she can really care less how many women he has been in contact with.
The next poem I read was The Flea by John Donne. The author and his lover are sitting somewhere enjoying the company of each other when a flea comes and bites them both. His lover goes to kill the flea and he stops her saying that “If you kill the flea, you will be committing a sin of three.” Interpreting this I found out that since the flea bit him, her and has its own blood inside of it, it is three people. He tells them that this is the only way their blood can be together since the parents grudge against their love. Eventually however the girl ends up killing the flea and the author tells her that she has “purpled her fingernail with the blood of innocence.” In his eyes the flea did nothing wrong, it only brought them closer together.
The third poem I read was A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning also by John Donne. The author begins by addressing his lover that he needs to spend some time apart from her. She is distraught by this but he tells her to be as virtuous men are and leave without “tear floods.” He does not want her to mourn his leaving. He assures her that their souls with always be one and they will stretch to fill the emptiness and distance that his going puts between them. He finally compares their love to a compass. She is in the middle, staying strong and steadfast while waiting for him while he is on the outside moving around, but never leaving the confines of the circle.
The last poem I read was Fox Trot Fridays by Rita Dove. In this piece the author states “Thank the starts there’s a day each week to tuck in.” From analyzing the title I concluded that this day must be Friday. The author loves that she can throw caution to the wind for one day and just have fun. She describes the smooth and graceful movements of the heel foot and ball to that of the smile of Nat King Cole, elegant and refined. She embraces the fact that one man and woman can be dancing together on a Friday night with no worries and “no heartbreak in sight.” She just lets the space of song take her away in dancing.

Week 1 Service

As a Health Leads volunteer, I go to a weekly 2 hour shift at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Labor and Delivery Unit. There, I work with urban and often marginalized women. My job is to provide resources to these new moms as well as their new babies. The kinds of resources range from food stamps to getting a crib.

This week my client is Ms. Johnson. I must admit that before I even met Ms. Johnson, I have already decided what she would be like: African American, single working parent, probably young, probably the baby’s dad is not with her, probably already have a kid before, and probably lives on welfare. After all, that is what most of our clientele population is like. Although Ms. Johnson fits some of the descriptions, by no means is she a clone of what I had thought she would be. Although unmarried, she and her boyfriend plan to raise the boy together. Disagreeing with me, Ms. Johnson rents an apartment, has a steady job, health insurance, and has successfully enrolled herself as well as her child in WIC, women infant care, a federal program that provides nutritious food to newborns. All she is looking for is to have a different job so she may spend more time with her son.

As I was still trying to take in all the information, her boyfriend stepped in and gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek. That kiss shuttered so many stereotypes I had of Ms. Johnson and the urban population in general. Just because someone lives in the city, does not mean that person fits all the urban stereotypes. Ms. Johnson is a hard worker and a caring parent. However, her effort, at times, is stopped short due to social determinants. Ms. Johnson may have to leave her current job not because she wants to rely on welfare but because she needs time to take care her new born son. I am glad that through Health Leads I have the opportunity to see the Baltimore city from a different perspective. It asks me not just to look from the surface but to inspect from

all directions and to gain a deeper understanding of a population that is seemingly different from my own. Just like Rawari bridges the two generations, Ms. Johnson is the link between me and the urban population. Through her, I erased some of the stereotypes I had of urban population and wish to continue this process.

Poem Analysis

The Flea, Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, Fox Trot Fridays, and Memorandum, all shares a common thread, love between men and women. While some poems are used to express love, others are manipulated to ask for love.

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning by John Donne is a farewell to his beloved wife. He asks his wife not to mourn his departure. He compares his leave from his wife to that of men from their souls. Let her mourn for him without tears and much sadness; so that they may keep their deep love to themselves and protect it from public “profanation”. Using a metaphor of the “earth” and “sphere”, Donne points out that there are two kinds of love, one of bodily and one of spiritually. Donne concludes that the love between him and his wife is of the latter because they do not just love each other physically but more importantly in spirit. Their love is compared to the “spheres” instead of the “earth. Their love for each other is so profound that it cannot be experienced by people on earth just like the “trepidation of spheres”. Additionally, their love will survive the distance. Finally, Donne suggests that he and his wife are like the two legs of a compass. She is fixed in the center, but when he moves, so is she. They cannot live without another.

John Donne’s poem, The Flea, is a playful take on his expression of love to his beloved one. He begins with innocent comments on a flea, how it has “sucked” both the blood of him and his object of affection and combined the two into one. This explanation of the flea is a sexual innuendo on how the girl should sleep with him. Furthermore, Donne said there is no “sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead” associated with this union. Their union could also result in a pregnancy as indicated by the line “pampered swells with one blood made of two”. Donne also asks the girl to spare the flea so to save three lives, his, hers, and the flea’s. Donne repeats how they are already united and married inside the flea. He asks the girl again not to kill the flea for she would commit “three sins in killing three”. When his beloved one does kill the flea, Donne describes her hand as “cruel and sudden” and scolds her because the flea was harmless to her except for taking one drop of blood from her. Donne compares the killing of the flea to the ending of their love. Donne continues by saying that neither of them got weaker as a result of the flea, so their union would do no harm as well. Thus the girl should consider to be with him.

Fox Trot Fridays by Rita Dove depicts a dance scene. By research, the main characteristic of fox trot dance is its long and flowing movement. Likewise, the rhythm of the poem follows the same characteristic. Although, the poem is broken into nine stanzas, each flows to the next. Dove’s description of a man and a woman dancing right next to each other depicts a rather dreamy scene. Her choice of words, such as “sweep” further elaborates on the theme of long and flowing movement.

Billie Bolton made clear what her claim is in her poem, Memorandum that she does not want to hear from her boyfriend ever again. However, it is also ironic. The author plans to not have any contact with her boyfriend, yet she is going to remember a list of things about him. What separates this memo from the conventional ones is that everything is described in detail. Often, a memo is short so it is easy to remember. Not only so, Bolton even separated the memo into four categories, “your addled thoughts”, “your wireless connection”. “your adolescent only child” and “your significant others (female)”. Each progresses in the level of importance. Each category made a bigger impact on the author than the level before. From thought to actual incidents, the author seems to get angrier and more personal.

Through different elements of writing, each author exams different perspectives of love.

Poetry Blog 2

Kelly Gajdzisz

Two authors, John Donne and Rita Dove, presented four poems for me to read this week-“A Valediction: “Forbidden Mourning,” “The Flea,” “Fox Trot Fridays,” and “Memorandum.” All four poems have the theme of love in common. However, each poem looks at love from a different angle and the language of the poem helps the reader see love through a different lense.

To begin with, John Donne’s poem “A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning,” uses vivid comparisons to describe parting from a loved one. For example, in his third stanza he talks about “moving of the earth” and “trepidation of the spheres.” These events can be very scary just like separating from someone you may love. He gives a sense of fear but at the same time he says it will be okay- “So let us melt, and make no noise…” Though he is scared to leave the one he loves, the love he feels is so strong he knows that that power will help him and his significant other stay strong as well.

Additionally, in John Donne’s poem “The Flea” he uses a little pointless bug- a flea to describe the meaning of joining together for love. He personifies this flea with the human attributes of sex and conceiving a child. He says, “And pampered swells with one blood made of two, and this, alas is more than we would do.” This example compares the couples joining together in marriage with the joining together of their blood in this flea. It is a bizarre way to exemplify the sexual part of a marriage. He also continues to show some possible unhappiness in the marriage, “Though use make you apt to kill me…” In this example he could be talking about the flea or himself and how his wife may be unhappy with their marriage.

From a different angle of love, Rita Dove’s poem “Fox Trot Fridays” focus on something that reminds her of love rather than someone. From the upbeat and positive way the poem is written I can tell that Fox Trot Fridays is something that the author looks forward too. It brings her happiness in the way she sees lovers dance. Even if it is not her who is in love, just seeing the love being presented in the dance makes her happy and gives her hope for love.

In comparison with the other poems, Rita Dove’s poem “Memorandum” portrays the negative side of falling in love. Her piercing, startling, angered voice is greatly portrayed throughout this “memo” type poem. The listing and categories add to the anger felt by Rita towards this man. The presentation of a poem adds to the voice of the poem. If this poem were written in stanzas the voice would not be as blunt and furious as it is written as a memo.

Overall the poems read for this week present a theme of love. As I did community service through out high school, love was a major theme as well. No matter where I went—the church for free meals, a community fun fair for the homeless, a nursing home, or how much money I raised for foundations there was always love. There was love between all of the people affected because even if they were without money and clothes and food they still had love for each other. My senior year I raised money for a girl who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was wheelchair bounded. The love that family felt was like the love John Donne expressed in “A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning.” It was scary but they knew with their love they had for one another everything was going to be okay. And when we gave them the money we raised it was like a “Fox Trot Friday” for them—a happy day that brightened their smiles.

Blog for February 1st, 2011

The poems that we read this for this week, although their styles and structures are very different, all have very similar themes about love as well as life. John Donne’s “The Flea” deals with the frustrations that love entails while his other poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” deals with the connections that love can form as well as separation. “Fox Trot Fridays” by Rita Dove illustrates the carefree nature that love sometimes that can take and unfortunately Billie Bolton’s “Memorandum” demonstrates the anger and hurt feelings that ensue when a relationship ends. These works all prove that life, as well as love, is unpredictable and can take many forms.

“The Flea” by John Donne illustrates the complications and difficulty two people face while in love. Donne, throughout the entirety of the piece, uses the metaphor of a flea mixing the blood of two lovers. During this time during the narration, the two lovers are having a quarrel, and by using the flea as the main image, Donne is illustrating that lovers are connected even through the hardships. When the flea is killed by his female companion, the speaker is in despair because their connection and unity is shattered. This poem, through its imagery, shows the basic struggles and complications individuals face when having relations with others. Another poem of John Donne’s that illustrates the complications of live and love is “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.” In this poem, Donne describes the farewell of a man and a women, describing the difficulties all people face when having to leave a loved one behind. Through their dialogue, we discover that the speaker believes that even though there will be distance between the two, they will always be united in spirit. This also illustrates the spiritual component of love as well as the ability of making powerful connections with other individuals.
Last semester I volunteered at the Halloween carnival that Best Buddies hosts for individuals in the Baltimore community that have special needs. Although it only lasted a couple of hours, I was able to make lasting connections with the individuals I was blessed to spend time with that day. During the day, I ended up being paired with Greg and after spending a couple of hours with him I was genuinely happy that I had the opportunity to meet new people in the area and help them celebrate the festive holiday. After this, it made me realize that we as humans strive for connectedness with other beings. This is similar to “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” because of the ways Donne describes the relationship the speaker has. He states that “our two souls therefore, which are one, though I must go, endure not yet a breach, but an expansion” (21-23).
“Fox Trot Fridays” by Rita Dove illustrates the easiness and carelessness life and love can create when two people are happy and enjoying life. Dove uses phrases such as “easy as taking one day at a time” and “with no heartbreak in sight--” to demonstrate that love is joyous in its purest form. When I read this poem, it really reminded me of my buddy, Greg, and the day I spent volunteering at the Halloween carnival. Both of these demonstrate that even though life can be difficult and challenges may be thrown our way, its what we take out of our lives that makes us strong individuals ready to live life to the fullest. The fourth poem, “Memorandum” by Billie Bolton, on the other hand, displays the hardships that occur when a relationships breaks off. The structure of the poem demonstrates the real life qualities the author brings up about the deterioration of a connection between two people.

These four poems all demonstrate the different stages of love and relationships that occur in all types of individuals. They represent love, and hate, hardships and longing. In my opinion, these poems all relate to my life, especially with my volunteer work that I have done here at Loyola.

Event Blog and peoms

Through out the poems the theme of love is present. It may not be the beauty of love or the action of love but in some way love affected all of the speakers. It shows the love that a girl once had for her boyfriend who she is now frustrated with and also shows the love and unity that is caused by one dance between two people. These four poems show how love can affect one another and also how it takes multiple forms.
In John Donne's A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning he speaks of how him and his lover will be separated. This separation is not to harm their love but instead it will strengthen it. They should not feel sorrow or cry because it will corrupt their love. Their love is much more refined then others, Donne states and that since their souls are one, the separation will not cause a breach but rather an expansion. Even though they are two they move and are still with each other just as feet move together.
Also involving the relationship between two people, Rita Dove's Fox Trot Fridays presents the idea of a sophisticated man and women sharing a dance which brings them together. This unity is seen through the “smooth” dancing and easiness of life. Once a week they relieve their grief and engage and become one in a dance. They are “rib to rib” and feel no pain and see no problems ahead. The song and dance brings them together and is a paradise filled with wonders. Rita Dove is able to present the idea that the couple is in complete unity and experiences joy.
Love again is a theme in Memorandum by Billie Bolton. Yet this love is shown through the frustration that a girl has with her boyfriend. She is frustrated with his habits, thoughts and friends. Her expression of frustration is shown through an e-mail with the subject referring to things she never wishes to hear from him. Bolton demonstrates the anger by listing certain people, and habits that the boyfriend has. In order to portray hatred she uses fierce and harsh words while describing his actions.
John Donne' again portrays love between two beings in his poem “The Flea”. He uses the Flea as a symbol for the connection between the women he is with and the feelings he has for her. The flea is what they have in common for it contains both of them by sucking their blood. Donne points out that is like they are married. The women wishes to kill the flee but the speaker says by doing so it would kill all three of them. He claims that is she were to be with him she would lose the same honor as she did when she killed the flea.
Love presents itself in different forms. It is seen through relationships with people, it is seen through fleas and harsh e-mails and is also seen through a eloquent dance. The four authors of the poems present love in similar yet different fashions. They all show love between two people whether it is present now or was at some time. Yet they all show how love can affect two people positively and negatively.
I attended Nell Irvine Painter's presentation of her book, The History of White People. She spoke of the idea of racism and the causes and effects of it. It is an idea that has been around since the enlightenment period in the 1750s. The idea of racism is like a tradition it is passed down from generation to generation and is used to justify beliefs. Racism also causes a relationship between people. Most of the time it is a negative relationship because one party thinks they are better than the other. It is not only present with African-Americans but also with the Slavic people. That is where the term slave comes from, slav or a Slavic person, or a slave.
Her talk was interesting since she is an African-American and is writing a book on the history of white people. It is a different point of view that allows the listener to think outside of the box on certain subjects that people do not speak a lot about. Also it taught me that slaves are not just African-American people that were brought to America and that racism was not just a term associated with them but rather it has much more history and is more complex than that.
It is similar to the poems that I read for class this week. Although the poems speak of love they also speak about relationships and slavery is a relationship between two parties. It is somewhat similar to the poem about the e-mail to her “boyfriend from hell”. The boyfriend would be the slave owner while the speaker would be the slave. The slave would be tired of and angry at the actions of the slave owner. It would cause frustration in the relationship and the slave would not want to deal with the owner after they way he or she has been treated.
Just like racism is used to justify beliefs and actions so is love. Racism is used to back up a persons feelings or stereotypes towards a person of another race. Love is used to justify a person's feelings or actions. People can do absurd things when they are in love with someone else. They may act strange, feel strange or do something crazy but they use love to justify their actions. When people used to have slaves or discriminate against others they used racism as an excuse. Both of these feelings are used to justify certain actions and beliefs.

Blog Post 2: Poems and Service

The poems, “The Flea”, “Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”, “Fox Trot Fridays”, and “Memorandum”, all depict poems with unique styles of motifs, rhythmic patterns, mood, and tone. The four poems have a distinct narrator, each with their own perspectives on life and choices people make. Love and relationships are constantly portrayed in the media, both in positive and negative lights. Through service, I have learned to develop relationships with people, as well as learn about the relationships the people have with God, their family, and their peers.

In “The Flea”, the title refers to the state of dependency and care for another person. Similar to a flea, this person can only live fully with reciprocated love. In “The Flea”, John Donne presents his style with a unique spacing technique. The 3 lines after each stanza are indented. These indented stanzas are the “main points” of his poem, portraying each stage in a person’s life. The first stage is that of infatuation, dating, and marriage. The second stage is that of betrayal, lies, and divorce. The third stage of this life is acceptance and moving on. The other three poems also depict stages, perspectives, and aspects of relationships and love. In “Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”, by John Donne, the theme of separation and anxiety, similar to that in “The Flea”, is also portrayed in this poem, but in a different way. While “The Flea” portrays separation in a way of heartbreak and betrayal, Donne portrays separation as a sad goodbye. As stated in the critical thinking questions after the poem, Donne wrote this poem as a goodbye to his wife as she left for France. Although the two were separated, they were still married, together, and happy. The separation is only temporary. Donne realizes that although separation is natural, if a relationship is filled with love and is pure, time will ultimately bring the two back together. Compared to Donne’s other poem, which depicts love as a source of connection and dependency, this poem portrays love in a more positive light. Another poem, “Fox Trot Fridays” by Rita Dove, compares love to a dance, specifically, the fox trot. To Dove, love and a healthy relationship is in tune with music, rhythm, and a strong partnership. “Fox Trot Fridays” has a unique rhythm and structure, with each stanza pertaining of two lines each. In addition to this, there are references to music and dancing, such as Nat King Cole, as well as certain words known to dancers and movements, such as “heel-ball-toe” (Dove 6). These references make the connection of love and a ballroom dance stronger. The narrator’s perspective on love is entirely different than the narrator’s of the other two poems. This uplifting and positive portrayal of love and relationships provides the contrast needed to make accurate comparisons between the four poems. The fourth and final poem, “Memorandum” by Billie Bolton, is similar to “Fox Trot Fridays” in that the narrator’s perspective and tone is on the far end of the spectrum. While “Fox Trot Fridays” depicts love in a positive light, “Memorandum” focuses on a break-up and betrayal while emphasizing the man’s flaws, thus portraying love in a negative way. Bolton describes love, and falling out of love, solely through their partner’s obnoxious and annoying qualities. While insightful, its harsh and blunt tone causes readers to wonder what caused this perspective on love in the first place. Also unique amongst the four poems, its structure is similar to an e-mail containing a numbered list, followed by full-length sentences. This gives the poem a less-structured feel, which helps emphasize the informality of tone and sentence structure. This poem is the most raw, and sometimes, relatable.

Relationships are something that each person will experience and can relate to throughout their lives. Through service, I have been able to develop relationships with certain people that I would never have met before. In the first semester, I chose to be involved with the Community Service Council, which allows students to participate in one-time service opportunities. I also participated in the pre-orientation program, S.O.S. In particular, through my service that I did at S.O.S., I can draw connections with the relationships that I have made or been told about with the four different perspectives of love and relationships that were depicted in the four poems we had to read for this week. On the second day of S.O.S., we did Care-A-Van, both making the sandwiches and delivering them downtown. When we were downtown, I met a man named Jeff. Jeff was very quiet, and at first, hard to communicate with. He told us about his relationship with his family, which is strained because of his homelessness. He believes in the end, he will be reunited with his family. This is similar to the perspective on love and relationships that is portrayed in “Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”. Like in the poem, Jeff believed that if his love for his family was strong enough, they would love him under any circumstance and he would find his way home in the end. Jeff also told me about his strong connection with God. He said what helped him survive the day and believe in his family was praying. Similar to the perspective portrayed in “Fox Trot Fridays”, Jeff’s faith and love was unconditional. However, Jeff also depended on his faith for his survival. This dependency on looking forward to a reunion with his family, as well as his love for God, is similar to the perspective of relationships being a source of dependency in “The Flea”.

On Sunday, my suitemate and I went to Beans and Bread for The Last Sunday. Throughout the meal service, I interacted with a variety of different people. I listened to many different stories. At least two different men told me about their family and their strained relationships with them. Unlike Jeff, their relationships were so strained with their parents and children, that there was a sense of resent and hatred. They talked about how disgusted they were with their parents and that they didn’t want to see them again. This sense of hatred is similar to the perspective of love that was portrayed in “Memorandum”.

Love and relationships is something universal that everyone can relate to. Reading these four poems allows me to see each way a relationship can be looked at. By looking at how a person views love and their relationships, it also gives a lot of insight to the person and how they think. In the end, relationships are a part of human nature. I really find it interesting when I talk with the people I am serving and hear about their lives. It’s always a great thing to see where a person comes from and how they were raised, as well as their current hopes and dreams for the future. I believe that service is the best way to do this because I meet so many people from different lifestyles and backgrounds that I really get to learn about the lives of many different people.

Blog Number 2 - Poems

Nick Irvine
This week focuses on the poems: “Memorandum” by Billie Bolton, “Fox Trot Friday’s” by Rita Dove, “The Flea” and “Valediction, Forbidding Mourning” both by John Donne. These four unique poems all have one major focus: things they love or things they do not love, but all seem to concentrate on the idea of love and how that affects there lives.
John Donne the author of two of the four poems writes about the strength and meaning of love. I found that in “The Flea” he tells a story of a flea that takes something from them and he believes a sin to kill it as it has part of both him, and his lover inside of it, as it bit them and is holding both their blood. He feels sympathetic towards the flea as he relates it to their “marriage bed, and marriage temple”; meaning because it holds something from both of them this one flea is now part of them.
His other poem “Valediction, Forbidding Mourning”, also considers the fact of love and loss. He describes how his lover will be leaving him for a while, but in this poem he goes onto describe how the absence will strengthen their love. He writes eloquently describing his feelings and puts a lot of emphasis on how he will be hurt as his lover is gone but still he describes how his love means everything to him and being together, like the flea and his blood, is something he will wait for.
“Fox Trot Friday’s” focuses on something Rita Davis looks forward to because it brings out the emotion of love in her. In this poem she describes the affection caused by fox trot on two lovers dancing and pushed up against one another embracing each other, as they should do. This idea relates back to John Donne’s idea of being together and loving each other as much as possible.
“Memorandum” takes on a different form of love, she describes everything about what she does not love in someone in the hopes of finding her true love. Everything she says relates to the complete opposite of what the other two authors have tried to portray to the reader, because Billie Bolton focuses on hate and despair. In my view she wants to be with someone to embrace what the other two poets wrote about as she clearly laid out everything she despises in a person.
These different poems all written differently all seemingly relate back to the concept of love and how they all want to embrace love with their lovers or things they hold closely to themselves. Love to them is everything and getting that emotion can be shown by either writing as eloquently as Donne or as hatefully as Bolton did, but in the end what I believe these authors are trying to say comes down to love and being able to embrace that love and share it with things that mean a lot to them.

Event #1 - CELL OUT for Congo

On Tuesday January 25, I participated in the “CELL OUT for Congo” event. This worldwide event asked participants to turn off their cell phone from Noon to 1pm. Instead of making/taking calls or texting, we changed our voicemail messages. The message was:

“Did you know that coltan coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo is an essential component in the production of many of our electronics, including cell phones? The demand for coltan is one of the driving forces behind the war in the DRC, and while we benefit from coltan, over 5 million Congolese have died in the deadliest conflict since WWII. Join me in solidarity with the Congolese people and turn your phone off today!”

This event seems to be a straightforward, “pass-it-on” chain awareness event. It should build awareness through the message. For me, however, I wasn’t truly affected by the message but by my initial response to it. On Tuesday, I had class until 10:40 leaving me plenty of time to participate in the hours of the event. But my apathy towards the event led me to rationalize not participating. “No one is actually going to call me during the hour, so no one will hear the message! I bet I could get away with not changing it,” I thought. Then I began to feel guilty about having to lie for an assignment, and being so lazy I couldn’t even change my voicemail, so I fully participated. I wound up not changing it back until 8 p.m. in hopes that someone would call and hear it.

The fact that I almost didn’t change my voicemail startled me. As a student at a Jesuit University, there are certain values we are expected to incorporate into our lives. As discussed in “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice” by Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Jesuits’ educational objective is to form men and women for who live for others. These men and women should make themselves intellectually present where it is needed.

I began to wonder if I was wasting money coming to a Jesuit university. My parents clearly believe that I should be prepared not just academically, but also be educated in the Jesuit values. As I read Kovenblach’s words, I realized the need for a well-educated solidarity – an aware, united culture. He says that solidarity is best learned through contact rather than through concepts. “When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change.”

This was the wakeup call I needed. I had been expecting to sit and class and be enlightened in Jesuit values. Rather, “Personal involvement with innocent suffering, with the injustices other suffer, is the catalyst for solidarity which then gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection.” By making personal experiences, I am able to reflect more effectively. I can learn about myself and others, and how to perceive, think, choose, and act for the rights of others.

I began to realize that even sitting in my dorm room, I could make a change. I was able to build awareness for a problem 6,500 miles away. More than that, a problem 6,500 miles away was able to change me. So I wonder, what is possible when one makes them self present closer to home?

Event #1 Rape in the Congo + Poetry

In all of the poems the authors speak about the beauty and hardships of life and how these things can be intertwined in a single unit. This theme relates directly to the presentation on the Rape in the Congo video event. Billie Bolton’s poem starkly contrasts Valediction with pet peeves dominating a relationship instead of the refined love that surrounds John Donne and his wife. Rita Dove’s poem is very much like The Flea in the sense that a single dance, or animal, can bring together the love of two people. The flea brings together the blood of a married couple while the fox trot brings two souls together to forget their worries and dance in unity.

The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo is a documentary of the wartime atrocities against women in this city. This documentary focuses mainly on the sexual assault and rape of the women living in Bukavu. Women are raped and mutilated daily in Bukavu by soldiers from both sides of their war. Even the Congolese army, meant to protect the people of Congo from the Rwandan rebels invading, massacring, looting, and raping, are raping their own women. Often the husbands of women are killed or flee when soldiers come out of the jungles to rape villagers. The rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo are a horrific atrocity and are an ongoing problem that requires the attention and concern of the world.

In A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning John Donne speaks of leaving his wife on a trip yet the distance that is going to be between them does not bother him due to his strong love for her. He speaks of having such a refined love that the distance between their hearts is an expansion instead of a chasm, thus reassuring his wife of their unity, asking her not to mourn. This refining process can be seen in many other analogies, such as the quote: “pressure either breaks pipes, or makes diamonds” and in the Christian viewpoint of God’s love as a refining fire.

The poem Fox Trot Fridays shows how Rita Dove appreciates the fox trot as a way to escape the troubles in her life. She relates the dance to a paradise with wonders and that the dance night is the day of the week that all of her troubles can be cast aside and she can focus on the dance. After attending the video event on the rape in the Congo it is apparent that everyone needs a place to get away and forget his/her troubles. For the mutilated women in the Congo it is extremely hard for them to feel at peace or with the community, their churches, however, provide them with the day of the week (Sunday) where they can go and forget their grief and troubles in a way that Rita forgets her heartbreak and troubles on fox trot night.

In Billie Bolton’s Memorandum the author writes poetically about her pet peeves from her ex-boyfriend. In her memo she seems to exhibit a lot of jealousy. She shows her insecurity with her boyfriend’s obsession with celebrity body parts, his addictions to things that draw his attention away from her (T.V. fantasy football, shopping, cell phones, etc…) and even his devotion to the Virgin Mary. This poem shows not only the jealous aspects of the author but draws a common theme with her boyfriend’s addictions: technology. Technology can be seen to be the driving force behind her messy relationship, just as it can be seen to ruin relationships in the world today, distracting people from what really matters, each other.

John Donne’s The Flea shows an unlikely union of his wife and he, one that is more sacred than their marriage. By the flea biting both of them, it has done what marriage can only do figuratively, intertwine their lives (blood is the source of life) and, in innocence, make them one. This poem can be seen to show how nature can do what humans fail to do, this flea does what their marriage cannot and what his wife will not, intertwine their blood, it shows that the innocence in marital sex is similar to the innocence in nature.

The rapes in the Congo are the most atrocious acts being committed in our world today. The poems and the video on the Congo have a sense of religion and marriage as part of their central themes. The loving relationship that John Donne has with his wife and the intertwining of their blood in his second poem show a sense of beauty. The memo that Billie Bolton writes to her boyfriend shows the brokenness in their relationship and Rita Dove shows the beauty of unity in the fox trot. Dove also writes about how the dance takes away the troubles of heartbreak and grief. In the Congo, however, there is only one escape from their abuse, the church. The women are raped and their husbands often leave them, showing brokenness in their relationship, starkly contrasting the beauty in John Donne’s relationship.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Event #1: Leaves

The weekend of January 21st I was apart of the Spotlight production of Leaves by Lucy Caldwell. The play is focused on the issue of teenage suicide. The play is about this Irish family who has just experienced the attempted suicide of the oldest daughter, Lori. The play focuses on the reactions of the family members and how they deal with the suicide. Each character takes on a different role and you see a different reaction from each person.

The mother takes her daughter’s attempted suicide as a failure on her part. Throughout the play you see the mother struggling to figure out exactly why her daughter would try to kill herself. She thought they raised her like every other child and she had always assumed that they were a normal family. She spends the entirety of the play dealing with internal guilt. The father does not know exactly how to react. He spends the entire play burying him self in work and trying to avoid the situation because he does not know how to express his emotions. He wants the family to act as if nothing happened and to go back to normal. Clover the second child has been said to of taken it the hardest because she always looked up to Lori and now this is something she cannot do. Clover feels as if Lori betrayed the family and is personally hurt by her actions. I played Poppy the youngest daughter and she tries to keep everyone calm and happy. She has an optimistic view throughout most of the play and basically has a very childish outlook on the situation.

The play directly relates to life in college because Lori had just gone off to college and obviously could not handle the change. Lori had trouble adjusting to this new life and took it out in a way that is irreversible. However she fails at her attempt, leaving the family and herself in a place they can truly never come back from. Being apart of this production made me see the affects of suicide more than I had ever known them. Seeing the character development throughout the play helped me see how one action can affect everyone around you.

Leaves can relate in a way to John Donne’s two poems The Flea and Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, in a sense that the mother loves Lori whether or not she is in her physical presence. The mother tells Lori that since birth they have been spiritually together. Lori is “one blood made of two,” so her mother has that instant connection to her. Leaves also relate to his other poem because you could say that Lori was needed for the family to function correctly, just as the compass had two components that move together.

Fox Trot Friday can be compared to Leaves because to Poppy, Lori coming back home is like that Friday feeling. Poppy believes that once Lori is back the family will return to the “paradise” they were all once experiencing. Memorandum can be compared to Leaves because Clover at one point in the play goes on a rant about how she hates the things that Lori has done to the family. Also Poppy goes on two rants about things she could never stand in her mother and in Lori.

This play has definitely affected the way I look at not only suicide victims but also suicide victim families.

Poetry Readings for February 1, 2011

The Flea by John Donne is a poem about a man who is tying to woo a woman that he is interested in. The poem has a rhyme scheme of aa, bb, cc, ddd. At the beginning of the poem, it is stated that there is a flea that has bit both this man and woman. The man proceeds to use the flea biting the both of them as a way to persuade the woman to be with him. The man says “And in this flea our two bloods might mingled be” meaning that they are basically already joined together. One can also assume he is trying to have sex with her because he says “loss of maidenhead” meaning loss of virginity. He then speaks of a possible pregnancy by saying “one blood made of two.” At the end of this poem he reader can assume that the woman denies him because she kills the flea. In turn killing the so-called bond that he had claimed they had.

John Donne’s next poem, Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, is a poem about a man having to leave his wife for a period of time. This poem is a romantic poem. John Donne uses metaphors to get his points across. For instance he compares him separating his wife to a men dying and separating from their dead bodies. Physically they are apart but spiritually they will always be together. He then compares their relationship to that of the two hands of a compass. They are two separate things but they move as one. Donne uses similes, also. He says that the “expansion” of their souls is the same as the expansion of gold. John Donne also states “thy firmness makes my circle just.” A circle is a symbol of perfection and something that is never-ending, such as the love between a husband and wife. In terms of writing style, he uses a lot of alliteration and uses an abab rhyme scheme.

Rita Dove takes a different form of writing into her poem, Fox Trot Fridays, by adding the flow of the well-known dance. The pacing of the poem is similar to the fox trot. The poem itself is about how Friday is a day of relaxation and finally taking all the stress away. Rita Dove uses a simile saying that it is as “Smooth as Nat King Cole’s slow satin smile.” This relates to the idea of an easy going day and the slow rhythm of the Fox Trot. Rita Dove also brings in biblical references such as the creation of man and woman by stating “rib to rib.” Dove brings us back to a time where heartache was nonexistent and humans lived in a true paradise, the Garden of Eden. She wants the reader to really understand that Friday is when you take the stress of the week and place is somewhere else.

Billie Bolton really takes a different style in writing poetry, by making it in the style of a memo. While reading Memorandum, you get into a rhythm of how it should be read and a pace is set for the rest of the work of literature. Each section of this “memo” is a stanza and they each portray a different feeling that she has towards her terrible boyfriend.

These poems are different in style and technique but all have one similarity. They all express the feelings that one has towards a lover. The Flea discusses the issue of sex, Valediction: Forbidding Mourning discusses the idea of leaving one’s lover for a period of time, Fox Trot Fridays talks about how Friday night brings upon the feeling of unbroken hearts and Memorandum talks about this woman’s disdain of her boyfriend’s ways.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Whale Rider

The book The Whale Rider by Ihimaera depicts the struggle of one young girl, Kahu, as she attempts to surpass social norms and obtain the necessary acceptance to become Chief. The chief of Kahu’s tribe, Koro, will not accept the fact that Kahu, the tribe’s heir, is a girl and seemingly tries to shun her from it. With all this happening Kahu goes behind her back to prove to Koro that she should be chief and gender should not influence whether or not one should be in a position of great power or no position at all. Kahu constantly tries to prove this to the Maori people even though she is not allowed to have the same education as the boys of the tribe. Ihimaera puts a strong emphasis on gender roles in this novel as Koro commands everything that happens throughout the book and people like Kahu, try and stand up to it by getting the education she normally wouldn’t be allowed and finds a way to possibly end this male dominated society she has been brought up in when she in reality should be the leader of the tribe.
Early on in the novel the reader learns how strongly this tribe concentrates on gender specific roles. It is first exemplified at Kahu’s birth. She is born with a brother, who abruptly dies, leaving the heir to their tribe a girl, which due to there history is not allowed and is frowned upon making Kahu’s, what should have been prosperous life very hard and stressful. The reader is notified of this by her grandfathers conversation with, her grandmother: “’A girl,’ Grandfather, Koro Apirana, said, disgusted ‘I will have nothing to do with her. She has broken the male line of descent in our tribe.’ He shoved the telephone at our grandmother, Nanny Flowers, saying, ‘Here. It’s your fault. Your female side was too strong.’ Then he pulled on his boots and stomped out of the house” (13, Ihimaera). From this quote, it is very strongly shown that her grandfather is devastated by what happened, as he needs and wanted a male heir. The gender discrimination and understanding of the people in the tribe, as portrayed here show that they know little of any human’s potential. The grandfather not only reacts to the birth of his granddaughter but also to his wife, Nanny Flowers, showing that he believes he is above everyone as the chief and as a male in this tribe.
As the novel progresses the reader can also see that nothing has changed in Karo’s perception of women. Towards the end of the novel, the whales find their ways onto the beach in proving problematic for the Maori tribe. The only way they can save their people is by having the ‘whale rider’ or the heir to the tribe ride the whales back out to the sea, proving to the whales that the humans are worth saving. Koro once again finds a problem with the fact that the heir is a girl and he does not believe that she will be able to save there tribe, secretly telling Nanny Flowers: “’you keeper Kahu away, e Kui’ Koro Apirana said. ‘She’s of no use to me’” (116). Even when everything is at stake Koro is too stubborn to go against his beliefs and give Kahu, her chance to prove herself that she has the potential to become the chief of the tribe. At the end of the novel Kahu takes her chance to rescue the tribe and saves them and the whale, proving her grandfather wrong, about his views and changing his ideas about gender forever.
This novel is riddled with gender roles and male dominancy as portrayed by Kahu and her interactions with her grandfather, Koro. Kahu does everything to try and prove to her grandfather that she should be the chief of their tribe but not until the end of the novel after he neglected her granddaughter the whole novel by blocking her from getting the tribe’s educating and many other things, does he realize that she is the one to take his tribe forward as she risks her own life for the good of the tribe. With this act of bravery and courage Koro finally realizes that just because you’re a different gender doesn’t stop you from being the person you should be.

Works Cited:

Ihimaera, Witi. The Whale Rider. New Zealand.: Harcourt Inc., 1987.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Whale Rider

Anthony Mahfood

Understanding Literature

Ms. Ellis

January 20, 2011

Whale Rider

As the story progresses it is clear that the narrator, Rawiri, now sees that Kahu was the chosen one but Koro still couldn’t see that. Rawiri and Kahu begin to get close and this is because he truly believes that she is the chosen one. When Koro decided not to show up to the dance Nanny is not very mad at first, but when the teacher announces that Kahu won the speech contest Nanny is in shock because this is the first time she is hearing about it. As a result she asks Kawiri if she mentioned it to him, but she only told him that she has a surprise so he had no idea what it was. Kahu was very disappointed that Koro did show up because her speech was about he love for her grandfather. They all go back to find Koro depressed about the whales and blames it all on Kahu. She knows it is her fault beach she called them and they came. After a long night of trying to save the whales they realize it is over for now and decide to take a break. When everyone is gone Kahu is going and talked to the whale. She gets on his back and the whale fights his way into the water. This is a very special part because it proves she is the chosen one. Rawiri is the one who turns around and notices the whale is gone. This shows his connection with Kahu. At this point Koro prays for Kahu to come back because he now know she is the chosen one. The ending was very special and touching.

Whale Rider

Koro seems to let his traditional values get in the way of his connection with family. It isn’t until he puts aside his stubborn conception of “men are the only leaders” that he is able to truly appreciate and cherish the love that he has for the women in his life. Some beliefs must change in order to keep tradition alive and allow society to flourish. In Koro’s case, he has to accept that for the first time a female is destined to lead the Mahori tribe. After a series of events, Koro is able to finally see what has been in front of him all along and realize that family is what’s most important.
Throughout Kahu’s life, no matter how cruel or cold her grandfather was to her, she admired and loved him unconditionally. She continues to prove that she is the type of leader her grandfather is looking for, but the fact that she is a female keeps him from seeing that what he is looking for is within his own family. Koro knew he was the key to passing on the tradition and was not willing to make any exceptions, therefore allowing traditional beliefs to get in the way of his connection with family.
When Whangara needs help with the whales, Koro insists that the men are the only ones allowed to help because they have to be one in body mind and spirit; but if they must work together as “one” shouldn’t the women be able to help? When Nanny Flowers eventually shows Koro the stone that Kahu had fetched, he realizes that she has a gift and the capability of a leader that he has been searching for since the day she was born. When Nanny Flowers and Kahu’s life is in danger, he admits that he is to blame for all of the harm done and is grateful that they are safe. Now that he can put aside the tradition of men being the only possible leaders, Koro is able to appreciate and cherish the love he has for his family and tribe.

The Power of Certainty in the Latter Half of Whale Rider

            The story of Kahu in Witi Ihimaera’s Whale Rider unfolds like a well-told joke: it has a long exposition and a relatively short punch line. While the first half of the novel was dedicated to establishing a background upon which to build the story of the Maori people of today, the latter half more deeply explored interpersonal relationships within the tribe, especially those between Kahu and Koro, as well as Koro and Nanny Flowers. Ihimaera depicts the spectrum of human certainty and, in the case of Koro, what it takes for us as humans to believe something we hadn’t thought possible when our presuppositions are so firm.
            The second half of the novel describes the maturation of Kahu, every detail seemingly adding additional evidence to the fact that she is the one who is meant to save the Maori people. Because the legends and myths which had been handed down in the Maori tribe are intertwined with the plot of the story, it quickly becomes clear that as she grows, Kahu exhibits more and more traits of the original ancestor, Paikea. Both share a clear connection with whales, sharp intellect, and seemingly pure hearts free of envy or mean-spiritedness. After Kahu fetches the stone which her grandfather had dropped to the bottom of the ocean as a test for his students to try and find a leader among them, Rawiri, Nanny Flowers, and the reader are utterly convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Kahu is the chosen one. Still, Nanny Flowers understands that Koro is still heavily in denial and unready to accept this so she mandates that no one tell him of Kahu’s fearlessness and success in retrieving the stone.
            It is only after Kahu disappears for three days with the whales and emerges alive that Koro can no longer hide behind his denial, causing him to break down and admit, “I should have known she was the one,” (Ihimaera 145). Just as certain and stubborn Koro was with his initial certainty that Kahu was not the savior of the Maori, Kahu was equally steadfast in her love for her great-grandfather despite the fact that he shunned and disappointed her at every turn. In the end, Kahu is rewarded for her patience and strength and ushers in a new era for the Maori tribe. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Whale Rider

In the second half of the novel, Ihimaera reveals that even Koro’s stubbornness has its limits. After ignoring Kahu’s love for years, Koro finds himself in desperate need of his great granddaughter. After his ancient methods failed to save the bull whale, Koro calls Nanny Flowers for reinforcements. Even when the women are called to help, Koro still tells Kahu to stay back. Throughout the novel, Koro never gives his great granddaughter a single chance to prove her value in the tribe. Until it is undoubtedly clear that Kahu is the whale rider, Koro never even thinks to look. However, once her power is revealed, he embraces her for what she truly is.

I do not blame Koro for neglecting all of the signs in this novel. He was always taught that a man must be the whale rider. This is no different from how the Catholic Church feels that only a man can change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. It is the way he was brought up, and he does not know any other way to think. The very traditions that he is trying to use to save his people are holding him back. This is a great example of how culture can sometimes blind people from coming to the right answers. Koro should have focused on the signs instead of sticking strictly to tradition, and he could have saved his tribe earlier.

Whale Rider, Second Half

Throughout the entire novel, it is clearly stated that Kahu was going to save the people. However particularly in the second half of the novel the reader begins to see exactly how she is going to do so, which resembles a certain biblical figure. Kahu saving her tribe and the whales is parallel to Jesus Christ saving humans.

The first instance that I saw similarity between the two was when Kahu went diving into the ocean and went over to the whales. Nanny Flowers, who could be seen as the virgin Mary, begins freaking out, crying and worrying about Kahu. Just like when Jesus is found teaching in the temple and Mary is left worrying about where Jesus is. The next time a connection is seen, is when Koro is discussing the link between natural and supernatural. Koro states that the two are connected through a “birth cord.” This is just as Kahu is connected to the earth with her birth cord. This parallels Jesus being connected to heaven and earth.

In chapter seventeen when Kahu jumps into the ocean, to ride the whales she says “Oh, sacred ancestor. I am coming to you.” (Ihimaera 126) Jesus when dying on the cross calls out to Elijah who was one of his sacred ancestors. Then later on in chapter seventeen and eighteen when Kahu is riding the whale she declares that her people will live and that she is not afraid to die. Both of these statements are easily related to Jesus, in that by dying on the cross he was saving people from sin and he too was not afraid to die. One of the main connections that stuck out to me was at the end of chapter eighteen when the narrator says that Kahu was Kahutia Te Rangi, Paikea, and the whale rider, that being similar to the Holy Trinity consisting of Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, Kahu is found unconscious, floating in the ocean three days after she was said to be dead. This is obviously an allusion to Jesus’s resurrection three days after he is hung on the cross. There are a few more similarities that I saw throughout the novel. One being Koro denying Kahu as Peter denied Jesus. Witi Ihimaera was clearly influenced greatly by the new testament and kept it in mind while writing this novel.

Hindsight is 20/20

When her tribe was in distress, Kahu was willing to risk her life in order to save the beached whales as well as the reputation of her tribe. In The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera, the main characters, especially the narrator were unable to recognize the signs of Kahu’s giftedness and ability as the future leader of the Tribe. Rawiri, the narrator, throughout the novel states how he wish he realized his niece’s special abilities. This is especially seen when Kahu succeeds in receiving the stone that her great-grandfather threw into the ocean, hoping that one of the boys in the tribe will succeed in retrieving it. Rawiri states that when Kahu is under the water, dolphins “seemed to be talking to her. They circled around Kahu and seemed to be talking to her” (91). While at the beginning of the novel Rawiri was unable to witness her special acts, by this point he is fully aware of her special abilities.

His grandfather, Koro Apirana, on the other hand was unable to realize that Kahu was vital in saving the tribe until she almost lost her life riding the whales out on the open sea. When she finally is awake in the hospital, he tells Nanny Flowers “I should have known she was the one...ever since that time when she was a baby and bit my toe” (145). Blinded by tradition, he was unable to see that his great-granddaughter was talented and had the ability to save the Maori tribe. He was even willing to be hypocritical, choosing a male not directly related to the family to be the new heir just because every single past tribal leader of the Maori have been male. In order of the save the tribe, some of the traditions including having an oldest male son needed to be changed. The willingness to let customs adapt allowed for the survival of Kahu as well as the survival of their tribe. Only in the end of the novel were most of the main characters able to see the special qualities Kahu was capable of, her actions to save the tribe allowed them to realize that in fact this character has shown qualities of a spiritual leader since the beginning.

Instincts in The Whale Rider

Throughout the first half of the The Whale Rider, tradition and gender roles played a major role in the movement of the plot and the actions of the characters; yet, in the second half, instinct seems to drive the plot and action, for both the inhabitants of the island and the whales.

Nearly all of Kahu’s actions are instinctive; she is not taught or told that she has the ability to communicate with the whales, yet she knows she has the capability and executes it in various parts of the novel. She also does not know exactly what will happen when she swims up to the ancient whale, but she instinctually knows that it is for the best.

The whales also operate on instinct, as they travel through dangerous areas to beach themselves at the instinct of their ancient leader to return to his master. Their leader is overcome by the urge to return to Whangara, perhaps sensing that Kahu, the “final spear”, has been born. It is also the instinct of his mate to urge the old male to allow Kahu back to her people so that she may be the dawn of a new era.

Nanny Flowers also indulges her intuition, especially when concerning Kahu. She nurtures the girl and encourages her to become involved in Maori tradition, even against the opposition of Koro. She also feels that it is also unwise to tell him about Kahu’s retrieval of the stone, based not on fact, but a feeling.

Generally, most actions in the world are based on instinct; decisions are based on a certain degree of intuition that one is doing the right thing, though it may not be immediately apparent. Many of the characters in The Whale Rider are driven by instinct, which, considering the supernatural elements of the novel, is much more dependable than whatever “facts” they have (which may be credited to the traditions and legends they all know well).

Koro the Arrogant Teacher

What is so remarkable about the second half of The Whale Rider is the fact that it was the village elder, Koro who was the most arrogant and furthest from knowing about his past than the rest of the Maori Tribe. It was his final realization at the end of the book that caused a sense of tranquility that allowed the tribe to progress and further their culture. Koro’s ill-temper and negativity towards the ability of women in the tribe caused the civilization to suffer. The death of the large amount of whales as well as Kahu being the true “chosen one” shows that it was Koro’s opinions were what caused such tragedy throughout the story.

Finally coming back home, Rawiri discovers that everything around him is exactly the same except Nanny Flowers’ dress size. Interpreting his trip as an escape from the one-sidedness life in Whangara, Rawiri demonstrates the tension that the story foretold as Koro pushed away Kahu in her efforts for affection. Being the village elder it is hard to believe that a society can progress if the teacher of the Maori culture group disbelieves the strength of a future leader because of her gender. Claiming, “Its not Paka’s fault, Nanny,” “That I’m a girl” laid down the foundation for need of a higher power that could disprove that only men were chosen to carry out the traditions of the tribe.

Near-sided to her wisdom and potential, Koro went from being thought to be the most enlightened to being one of the last people to learn the true signs of knowledge from the Maori people. Stating, “Not a word, Rawiri. Not a word about the stone or our Kahu,” Nanny Flowers knew that it was Koro’s knowledge of Kahu’s gift that would allow the tribe once again live in a culturally enhanced environment that will be able to progress for ages to come. Finally claiming that he wasn’t properly educated and that there was many things still at his age he hasn’t learned, hope for Koro to see that anyone man or woman could be an elder was introduced.

Before Kahu took matters into her own hands, it was Koro who stated,” If we are not able to return it, then this is because we have become weak.” It is Koro’s failure to realize the oneness that the tribe lacked that caused and symbolized the whale returning back to land. Koro running after the enlightened Kahu finally opened his eyes to the truths of the Maori that he did not understand. If he had realized this in the beginning and had not been so closed minded then maybe the punishments foretold in the story wouldn’t have been so great.

Whale Rider: Part Two

Throughout the entire novel, there is a constant sense of the past and present; whether it is the narrative alternating from the present tense to the past or Nanny Flower’s modern thinking and Koro Apirana’s traditional thinking. Towards the end of the novel, the past and present is joined together when Kahu is finally recognized by Koro as the new leader of the Maori tribe.

Koro’s close mindedness prevents him to see all of the signs pointing to the real leader, Kahu. In order for Koro to accept that Kahu is the whale rider, he must stop resisting against changes in the traditions. Right before Koro comprehends what is happening to the chief whale and his herd, he asks his wife, “Which of the boys?” (Ihimaera 133) as in which of the boys has saved the herd. This shows his inability to understand that girls and women have power until the end of the novel. While Nanny Flowers has certainly pressured him and tried to enlighten him on more modern views, ultimately Koro needed to see Kahu ride for him to believe she is the one.

In the hospital, Koro’s sincere apologizes spill out to Nanny Flowers saying he is to blame and he should have known, displaying the acceptance of change. It seems like Koro had a revelation in which he understands why women are of importance to society and why Nanny Flowers is always threatening to divorce. Koro admits his blindness to Kahu’s actions including the memory of when she bit his toe and when she kept sneaking into the school. In addition to accepting the change in the traditional gender roles, Koro’s tough exterior is set aside and his soft interior is exhibited when affectionately calls Nanny Flowers “dear” multiple times and cries while hugging Kahu. Koro acknowledges Kahu’s everlasting love and expresses his acceptance of Kahu being the new leader by stating his feelings for her, “You’re the best great-grandchild in the whole wide world. Boy or girl, it doesn’t matter…. I love you” (Ihimaera 149). Koro’s acceptance means a lot to Kahu and lets her know she has the blessings of the one person who really matters.

Kahu, the Maori Savior

The second half of The Whale Rider demonstrates a religious aspect not heavily stressed in the beginning. Specifically, the books protagonist, Kahu, can be compared to Christianity’s savior, Jesus Christ.

Several times characters in Whale Rider allude to Old Testament Biblical passages. When Rawiri returns from Papua New Guinea, Kahu says, “See how we love you Uncle, We killed the fatted calf for you, just like the Bible says.” Later, when Kahu is swimming towards the whales, Rawiri fears Kahu will be eaten by a whale, but he is momentarily comforted by the story of Jonah’s survival in a whale’s stomach.

These Old Testament allusions point to Kahu being her people’s savior much like the Old Testament prepares the way for Jesus’, the Savior’s, birth. In addition, Kahu is willing to sacrifice her life to save her tribe. The people Kahu and Jesus offer their lives up for reject them. When Kahu learns that the old whale’s survival is the key to life and death for the Maori, she runs to complete the mission she knows she was born to do. She wants to allow her people to live forever. This is similar to Jesus’ sacrifice in which he opened the Gates of Heaven, granting eternal life.

A final parallel between Jesus and Kahu is seen when she becomes the Whale Rider. She is brought down into the depths of the ocean. All of her family presumes she has died because she was gone for three days. After three days, however, she is returned to the surface and begins to breathe. The whales brought her back so that she could help the Maori people. Christians believe that Jesus died and descended into hell. After three days, he resurrected from the dead. After his resurrection, Jesus returned to help the people who were troubled when they needed him most.

The Whale Rider- The need for change

Through out the novel, The Whale Rider, the necessity for change and evolution in the tribe becomes evident to Koro. In the beginning Koro searches for a new leader, but is not looking in the right places. He looks at the boys in his town with qualities that he has and yet is blind to the powers of Kahu. Kahu is the change and evolution that the tribe needs. Throughout the second part of the novel, Koro realizes and accepts a woman, his granddaughter Kahu as the change the tribe needs.

One way change occurs is through Nanny Flowers and her determination in giving women more rights. She feels very strongly about the power of women and finds it necessary to constantly remind Koro. “ ‘Girls can do anything these days. Haven’t you heard you’re not allowed to discriminate against women anymore?’ (79).” This example shows the changes in the women’s rights in this culture. In a way this increase in power for women foreshadows to the reader that Kahu may have a chance in representing the tribe. Pressing Koro constantly about women eventually impacts his opinions towards women when he finally accepts Kahu for who she is.

Additionally, Nanny Flower influences Koro to see that change is good and women are of good use. After him refusing help from the women saying “ ‘You know as well as I do that this work is sacred’ (113).” He then eats his words when he needs the women’s help to put the whale back in the ocean “ ‘…go tell your Nanny Flowers it is time for the women to act the men.” (121)” This example shows Koro is more open to the idea that women can be of actually help and do good work besides making dinner and tending to the garden. Slowly, Koro’s views towards women are beginning to change.

The final instance that truly shows that Koro has accepted the need for change in his tribe is when he accepts Kahu as The Whale Rider, Paikea’s planted spear. “ ‘You are the best great-grandchild in the whole wide world…boy or girl, doesn’t matter to me’ (149)” Koro accepts the shift in power towards a women. He has finally recognized the change that tribe needs – Koro, a female leader.