Our analysis of “A Way of Talking” by Patricia Grace starts by focusing on the short story’s linear, chronological plot structure. The main conflict is between the two sisters of Maori ethnicity and a white woman who shows her racist prejudice during a casual conversation.
The main characters in the story are Hera, the narrator, who is a young woman about to be married, and Rose, her sister, who comes home from university for the wedding. Aside from them, the story features a dressmaker, Jane Frazer, as well as the rest of Rose and Hera’s family: their two brothers, their father, mother, and grandmother.
The physical setting is not specifically mentioned, but it is most likely a small town in New Zealand, judging by Jane’s jealous wonder at university life in Auckland (the largest city in New Zealand). The social setting centers around the conflicts arising from implicit racial bias in modern society.
The story is told by a first-person narrator. The narrator is explicit about her thoughts and feelings, and the events are described as they occur, in a straightforward manner.
By using a mixture of English slang terms and Maori terms, the main characters' language reveal their association with both the indigenous culture and with white New Zealand society. As the title also suggests, every character in the story is defined, in a sense, by the language that they use.
You can read a full analysis of the short story in the next pages.