Themes and message

The dying Maori culture

The short story “The Whale” by Witi Ihimaera explores the theme of the loss of Maori culture because of the influence of the Pakeha worldview through characters, action, and complex symbolism.

The main character, the old man, is the last of a generation which still lived according to Maori customs. In his village, he is the last keeper of these traditions while the younger generation has stopped following and respecting their own culture and values. The old man became an observer of these changes, often feeling powerless. He could not stop people from leaving their traditional community to move to cities dominated by European culture. He also failed to pass on his spiritual and cultural knowledge to most of the younger generation. The main exception was his niece Hera, with whom he managed to share som...

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