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 Ro...

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