Themes and message

Racial prejudice and stereotyping

The most important themes in the story “A Way of Talking” by Patricia Grace are racial prejudice and stereotyping. The words “prejudice” and “stereotyping” both refer to a bias and their effects are perceived as offensive by the group they are applied to, but while “prejudice” only has negative meanings, “stereotyping” can have positive meanings, but it is just as restrictive.

Jane’s prejudice against the Maori ethnic group is evidenced by her casually racist remark: “ ‘That’s Alan. He’s been down the road getting the Maoris for scrub cutting.’ ” Jane’s remark is indicative of how she distances herself from non-white ethnic groups, perceiving people who are different from herself only as a group, rather than recognizing the individual members as separate people. Jane has a racial prejudice that may not be clear even to her, as evidenced by the fact that she is friends with Hera, and genuinely interested in Rose. Hera remarks that “Jane often says the wrong thing without knowing.”

The story also tells us that racial prejudice goes both ways: “I said to Rose,...

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