Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The power of language

In the Tales of the Tikongs, the author uses language in a playful way which contributes to the humorous tone of the text. Thus, the reader enters a new literary world where signifiers have new meanings . It is an intellectual travel that invites the reader to reconsider the realities that he usually refers to. Moreover, I think that the author wants to shows that it is possible to mix cultures thanks to language and that this meeting can prove to be very fruitful, even humorous. For instance, in The Second Coming, it is said of foreigners that « they took their tribulation stoically, bearing their Christian cross with Buddhist calm .» Thanks to language, the Greek philosophy, Western culture as well as Eastern culture are unified in the same sentence and it creates humour.

Though Tiko can’t deny its Western heritage when it comes to language and phrases, it can create new meanings from this colonial heritage and in a way a new language. Biblical expressions are no longer symbolic but rather literal or they are used in a secular context. In the Second Coming, it is said of foreigners who could not stand working in Tiko that « they did nothing but count the days until they shook the dust of Tiko from their feet. » This biblical statement was made by Jesus to his apostles. If people refused their message, they had to « shake the dust off their feet. » Moreover, the narrator uses a phrase that belongs to the American political rhetoric but here again in a completly different setting : « …Pulu assigned his children each to sleep at night with a cow or the bull to protect them from the forces of evil. » In other words, Hau’ofa deconstructs what is established as Western truths or evidences and wonder what happens when they are transfered to another culture . The author also plays cleverly with the sound and the double meaning of a same word. The last tale illustrates this fact. It is entitled The Glorious Pacific Way . The word « Pacific » functions both as an adjective which derives from the noun peace but also as a noun that refers to the actual place. Furthermore, the main character’s name is Ole Pasifikiwei which is an allusion to the title of the tale.

Language is an excellent way to convey paradoxes and it serves the purpose of desconstructing what we consider as « normal ». In the tale Blessed are the Meek, Pulu applies for a job and he is accepted because « he has been the only applicant without a certificate of any kind and it’s been to his advantage. » This seems absurd for Western readers because everyone knows that without degrees it is very difficult to find a decent job. This thought is echoed by Sailosi who says « You don’t need fancy certificates to sit on top chairs.All these youngsters coming out of the universities are a pathetic lot. » The author also resorts to paradoxes to illustrate the complextity of reality. For example, afler the Historical Proclamation, Sailosi « purged himself of all pernicious imperial influences and embarked upon the restoration and preservation of his essential indigenous personalitiy. » However, he kept his concrete house, his Kelvintor refrigerator, his subscriptions to Playboy and Time magazines, all those elements being related to imperialism ! The author seems to say that extremes are impossible. Monoculturalism is unachievable in the world we live in today.

As a conclusion, we may say that Hau’ofa uses laguage as a powerful tool in order to deconstruct what we take for granted and to show that reality is more complex than what we think. Actually by accepting to read Tales of the Tikongs, the reader accepts to play a game that he is familiar with but with new rules. This game is very enjoyable since it invites us to have a new and humous perspective on Western culture out of its setting.

No comments: