Although the following poems by Robert Frost, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Judith Ortiz Cofer have three separate topics, they share many underlying themes. “Mending Wall”, “Slam, Dunk & Hook”, and “Common Ground” along with Peter Hans Kolvenbach’s “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education” can be compared with what our class has been discussing. The three poems along with the excerpt share the underlying themes of family, community, tradition, and gender issues, which we have seen in the novel, “Whale Rider”.
The poet, Robert Frost, writes figuratively and metaphorically about a mending wall. On line 43, the narrator writes about his neighbor saying, “He will not go behind his father’s saying”. This shows the neighbors strong bond to tradition and family. He will not let his own beliefs get in the way of keeping tradition. This is similar to the novel, Whale Rider, where the chief Koro will do whatever it takes to keep tradition; one example is Koro’s search for the next male in line even though he has Kahu. On lines 12-13, the narrator says, “I let my neighbor know beyond the hill, and on a day we meet to walk the line”. Although the narrator shows more opposition to the tradition of the wall, he still participates in the act. I found this ironic, because even though he expresses disdain for the wall he still is the first one to remind his neighbor that it is time to mend the wall. I think the mending wall stands for making barriers between people to not get too close. It relates to the novel, Whale Rider, because Koro built a wall around himself to his family to not get hurt. The wall came down at the end of the book, when they were in the hospital, and he could finally love Kahu and the rest of his family.
The poet, Yusef Komunyakaa, writes about basketball and how it is not just a sport but also a community. On line 35 of “Slam, Dunk, & Hook”, the narrator says, “We had moves we didn’t know” which meant their talent was instinctive and came from inside their soul. I related this to Kahu and her natural instinct of riding and communicating with not only the whales, but also other sea creatures. The narrator speaks of a community in lines 27-29 when he writes, “Glistening with sweat, we jibed and rolled the ball off our fingertips”. He speaks of the whole team as one player traveling together with the same movements. Another aspect of community is on lines 18-19 where it is stated, “we were metaphysical when girls cheered on the sidelines”. This shows that they need more than just the players to be complete and a whole team. Just like the Maori people who needed the men and women’s help to save the whales on the beach. If only one gender was there then they would not have been whole and successful.
The poet Judith Ortiz Cofer’s work, “Common Ground”, is laced with themes of family and love. The last sentence of the poem ties the themes together stating, “like arrows pointing to our common ground” which means that even though the family members are separate people, they are all part of the same family. On line 18 she writes, “I recognize my father’s brows arching in disdain over the objects of my vanity”. This represents the mixing of new culture with old culture and being un-relatable to other generations. This reminded me of the struggle in Whale Rider between the old Maori ways and 20th century technology. Specifically, it reminded me of Rawiri wanting to travel and Nanny Flowers wanting him to stay in the village doing what men had always done. But even though they had trouble relating to one and other, they still loved each other and were still a community. The little things did not matter in the end because they were family.
Peter Hans Kolvenbach wrote “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education”. He speaks of the Jesuits meeting in an annual congregation as a community. This reminded me of the Maori people meeting in their meetinghouse as a group, but only men. This gender issue continued in this piece when it was said by Fr. Arrupe, "Today our prime educational objective must be to form men for others" (pg 29). Although the women are seen as part of the community in both works, they are still neglected as having an equal amount of power. I understand only men can be priests, but the Jesuits should be searching for nuns to help their mission as well. It was said that one goal of the new changes was, “[…] to push every Jesuit work and every individual Jesuit to make a choice, providing little leeway to the fainthearted” (pg 25). I found this relatable to when the Maori people had to rise together to save the whales. All the people in the village pushed aside their own personal opinions to come together as a community and make a choice to save the whales. In regards to Decree 4, it was said that, “Dogmatism or ideology sometimes led us to treat each other more as adversaries than as companions” (pg 28). Ideology can make people lose sight of the main goal of compassion to try and gain success, but people must come together first in order to be successful. Having only one person on the Maori beach would have led the whales to die, but since the village came together they were able to successfully save the whales and themselves.
“Mending Wall”, “Slam, Dunk & Hook”, and “Common Ground along with Peter Hans Kolvenbach’s “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education” share the underlying themes of family, community, tradition, and gender issues with the novel, “Whale Rider”. The struggle between old village traditions and the new technological age is relatable to the new Jesuit transformation, keeping the tradition of mending the wall, and staying close to family traditions and expectations in “Common Ground”. The strong community of the Maori people is similar to the large Jesuit community, the basketball team and its fans and cheerleaders, the sense of family, and the rules of being a good neighbor.