Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Questioning the Tikongs

At the end of our last meeting, we were given two questions to consider concerning Tales of the Tikongs: Why is the structure appropriate and what is the function of satire.
As we discussed, Hau'ofa splits his work up into loosely related short stories. While this obviously introduces the readers to more characters and perspectives, this technique has other implications. For instance, it reinforces the importance of certain recurring characters, like Manu. When the reader sees Manu giving advice to sinners in one story and harassing development officials in another, he or she locks on to the appearance. Manu is no longer merely a meddling islander and neither is his position as counselor defined by another single character. In addition, it allows for the author to make drastic shifts in point of view. In the story entitled “Paths to Glory,” for example, the reader assumes the role of Tevita Poto as his uncle and others reprimand him: “You walk around like a fool; you walk around like Manu. That's humility taken too far and no one respects you for it”(Hau'ofa 43). The perspective of each story does not necessarily have to coincide with every other one. As a result, second person point of view can be employed to draw the reader into the world of Tikong. Therefore, it is appropriate for Hau'ofa to use such frames in his story as it emphasizes important characters and themes while inviting the reader to become an active participant in his world.
In general terms, satire concerns the use of irony or ridicule to bring human faults and follies to light. Since Hau'ofa is describing the actions and personalities of the inhabitants of a fictional island I believe that he is poking fun at them in order to draw broader conclusions about the Western world by comparison. He discusses a generic Tikong, who “tends to walk short even though he may be tall, and will not take even a dwarfish step if he can help it”(Hau'ofa 68). Most readers will think this description foolish. Why not walk tall and be proud if one deserves it? It seems ridiculous for someone like Puku Leka to stoop and submit himself to the abuse of others for no personal gain. The careful reader, on the other hand, will see this as a jab at cultures that hold material gain and social status above all else. Is it not even more ridiculous for someone to dress himself up in expensive clothes and look down his nose at others for the sole reason that he can? At least Puku can look forward to eternal rewards in Heaven for his lifetime of humility and service. Those of wealthier, Western cultures may end up trying to squeeze themselves through the eye of a needle.

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