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A Way of Talking

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “A Way of Talking” by Patricia Grace. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.

Presentation of the text

Title: “A Way of Talking” (1975)
Author: Patricia Grace
Genre: Short story

Patricia Grace was born in New Zealand in 1937. She is a writer of short stories, novels, and children'’s books, and she has received several awards for her literary accomplishments.

The story “A Way of Talking” is taken from her first published work, Waiariki, published in 1975, which is the first published collection of short stories by a Maori woman writer. 

Extract

Below you can read an extract from the study guide:

Title

The title of the short story “A Way of Talking” by Patricia Grace provides an early clue that language and choice of words is an important theme in the narrative. At first glance, the title seems to refer to Rose’s manner of speech, which is blunt, without hesitation or reservation, as mentioned from the very beginning of the story: “She’s just the same as ever Rose. Talks all the time flat out and makes us laugh with her way of talking.” But all characters have a specific way of talking which defines them and suggests their ethnic background and influences, as well as their level of education. For instance, Hera, a young Maori girl, uses a mixture of Maori and English slang terms, which demonstrates her link to both cultures. Also, it is the way Jane Frazer, a non-Maori woman, talks about some local Maori people which leads to the conflict between her and Rose.

The characters are also defined by whether or not they choose to speak out. The parents and the grandmother prefer to keep quiet when they are discriminated against for being Maori and also use racist terms when they refer to white people. Hera, while bothered by the same things as her sister Rose, struggles with her reluctance to speak her mind against discrimination, while Rose is very outspoken and blunt, even if it leads to open conflict.

Hera’s resolution at the end of the story leads us to think that the title may refer primarily to her own way of talking, which she intends to change:

 

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A Way of Talking

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