Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hau'ofa's Use of Diction

In Tales of the Tikongs, Hau’ofa employs the use of artful diction to emphasize the hypocrisy and mindset of superiority which development officials bring to Tiko. When interacting with the locals, the foreigners assert their ideologies without regard for the Tikongs’ dignity or integrity. Hau’ofa satires these encounters. One example is Sharky’s language while manipulating Ika to accept a loan. Hau’ofa writes that Sharky tells Ika he has an “urgent duty to help develop his country” (21). Yet the use of the phrase “urgent duty” disguises Sharky’s self-interest in developing himself. Rather than a humble sense of responsibility, Sharky brings selfish motivations masked in lofty goals such as “duty.” Hau’ofa refers to the Tikongs as “simple natives” (21). This refers to Sharky’s opinion that he is intellectually superior to Ika—he actually changes his dialect to converse. Hau’ofa also includes the satirical description that Sharky acts “with the infinite patience and gentleness of an expert native handler” (22). The phrase “native handler” is reminiscent of a slave overseer! Obviously his patience and gentleness serve Sharky’s underlying greed rather than benevolence. Finally Ika accepts and Hau’ofa writes “Ika, the frightened little man embarked on his solemn duty toward the development of his country” (23). The adjective “little” is effective, not in diminishing Ika’s character, but in emphasizing the contrast between the vast ocean, international scheme and bureaucracy which confront one man.

At the close of Hau’ofa’s collection of sketches, Ole struggles with the moral ramifications of accepting foreign aid. Hau’ofa allows the reader to enter into Ole’s struggle: “Hatred for Mr. Minte surged in his stomach to be mixed with self-hatred for his own simplicity and for his reluctance to ask from a stranger while everyone else seemed to have been doing so without compunction…Anyway, he supposed as he drifted into sleep, it’s like committing sin: once you start it becomes progressively easier” (84-85). The reader sees that Ole directs the hatred towards himself in frustration to follow society’s trend. The verb “surged” notes that the moral decision weighs on Ole mentally and physically. When discussing the loan, Mr. Minte “paused to savour to profundity of his remark before turning on an appearance of astounding generosity” (85). Hau’ofa uses the phrase “turning on an appearance” as well as the demeaning adjective “astounding” to demonstrate that Mr. Minte does not see Ole as his equal. Ole’s friend Emi Bagarap tells Ole: “Self respect is a luxury we can’t afford; we have no choice but to shelve it for a while. When we’re developed, then we will do something about dignity and self-respect…” (86). In fact, Ole ends up with millions of dollars; his life is full of luxuries! In the “international games” (87) of development, Ole also learned to alter his appearance; he becomes “humble and half-primitive” (87) to gain the privilege of “expert beggar” (93). Hau’ofa ends the book with this phrase! Ole began his inner conflict not wanting to beg, and now he happily enjoys the ironic opulence of begging. Hau’ofa is warning how money can encourage humans to conform and forget their original moral qualms. Furthermore Tales of the Tikongs is read internationally, and he is challenging his global audience’s role. To the citizens of nations being developed, he asks if they remain morally steadfast in the face of temptation. To the citizens of more developed nations, perhaps he is asking: how are we complicit in the consequences of these "international games"?

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