Feminist Themes in Witi Ihimaera Term Paper

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The paper will present arguments to show the relative importance of the book "Whale Rider" by Ihimaera. Its importance and possible impact on young girls will be discussed in the paper with special reference to the story of the book. After reading the book and after analyzing the story, the reader would know that the author wrote the book for his daughters. The paper will be technical and argumentative in nature. The paper will also provide a conclusion based on the findings and information.

Prolific Maori writer Witi Ihimaera's early works were written with the intention of helping convey Maori heritage and legend to young urban Maori. Much of his fiction is based on fact and has autobiographical elements, exploring what it is to be Maori in New Zealand society. The Whale Rider (1987), a mythical work about a young girl whose relationship with a whale helps save her village, was made into a film directed by Niki Caro in 2001. It won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2002, beating 344 films from 50 countries in the process, including Bend It Like Beckham. Past winners of the People's Choice Award include Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, American Beauty and Amelie - all of which went on to win Academy Awards http://travel.newzealand.com/index.cfm/purenz_page/65F7BD19-7EEA-4E54-8254-471068B08862/context/print.html

It has been noted that the author of The Whale Rider is well recognized and appreciated in the world of literature because he has given numerous contributions to the literary world. His novels are widely appreciated by the readers because all his novels are based on a certain message and background. He wrote the Whale Rider in the year 1987, the story describes the achievement of the protagonist who was a female; the story describes the successful attempts and the grace of the female protagonist. The story is a source of inspiration for the young girls because it shows that despite of being a girl the protagonist make attempts to gain acceptance from her grandfather.

Witi Ihimaera's The Whale Rider is one of those rare books that is so pure and so moving that it makes you believe anything is possible. Most specifically, it makes you believe that a book that's basically about cultural rituals among the Maori people of New Zealand isn't only fascinating and entertaining, but accessible. Though the book features a tattooed whale and characters who seem to possess strange and unusual abilities, it's basically just about a family. That family is lead by fearsome Maori chief Koro Apirana and his salty but loving wife, Nanny Flowers, and includes their grandsons Porourangi and Rawiri, the story's narrator. As the story opens, Porourangi, the older of the two, has just had a daughter, inflaming his grandfather. You see, power in the tribe handed down through the oldest son of each generation's oldest son. The birth of a daughter breaks the lineage. But unlike Koro, Nanny Flowers and the others don't find the little girl useless. But the heart of the story lies with Koro and Kahu, two characters both so single-minded and determined that they must be related. The relationship is especially interesting because Kahu seems to understand why her great-grandfather excludes her from tribal rituals and from his love, even as she disagrees with him. The result is a profoundly enchanting story that will hold in its grip right up to its tender conclusion." http://www.curledup.com/whalerid.htm

The story shows that the author has made an attempt to develop high morale in the young girls who are in a constant struggle to achieve anything in life. The story has shown that the young girls should not get disheartened or discouraged because of their gender, in fact they should feel confident and matured enough to deal with the society and the world. The story have stressed on the development of the character of the young girls.

It has been noted that mostly storywriters prefer males as the protagonists but Witi had made use of female character as the protagonist of the story. This characteristic has made the story a little bit different from the other stories. The story has been liked and appreciated especially by the female audiences and therefore, the film makers also decided to make a film on the story based on the feminism as shown in The Whale Rider. The audiences have liked the film and they state that:

Whale Rider is an outstanding film. It is a well written, well acted film dealing with many issues, such as survival of a tribal culture in the "modern" world, generation gaps, gender gaps, and family members understanding and supporting each other. It also deals with leadership and the difficulties involved in trying to chart a course for a group of people for whom you are responsible. The central story of the film is the struggle of a young woman to gain acceptance from her grandfather. Wrapped around this is the story of tribal bloodlines and gender expectations The movie is filled with a haunting soundtrack by Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard, including samples of traditional Maori music by Hirini Melbourne. The cinematography beautifully captures the many moods of light and shadow on mountains and sea, as well as stock footage of majestic whales. "Whale Rider" is an uplifting tale of love, loss, and courage, about tradition in the face of change, and believing in yourself." http://www.computersupply-reviews.com/amazon/cheap-B0000CABBW.html

The responses of the audiences show that some of the audiences decided to read the book after watching the movie because they got inspired from the story of the film. The plot of the story was very strong and attractive and therefore, it compelled the movie audiences to read the story on which the film was made. Whale Rider has the power of motivating the young girls and the story describes the fact that the continued struggle of the young girls would definitely generate positive outcomes, only if the young girls would remain confident and high spirited during the times of their struggle.

Whale Rider" is best known as the hit indie movie, winner of the Audience Award in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. But the basis for that film was Witi Ihimaera's magical, lore-laden novel "Whale Rider," a bittersweet story about a Maori girl and her mysterious destiny. The first great-grandchild of the Maori chief Koro Apirana is born... But a girl called Kahu, not the hoped-for boy, and soon her mother dies. Koro is upset, since only a male can carry on the line. Ihimaera tackles subjects like tradition, sexism, faith, and of course the Maori culture. Not a lot of books and movies handle the Maori, who are the native people of New Zealand, and Ihimaera does an excellent job of conveying the creation myths, a handful of traditions, and the danger to it now (illustrated by Rawiri's journeys to Australia and Papua New Guinea).Since the story is told through Kahu's biker uncle Rawiri, it takes us awhile to get to know Kahu. Similarly, the book is rather ordinary near the beginning, and the writing is too simple. But it grows in majesty, mystery and poetry as it progresses to its haunting, magical climax. Among the best parts of the book are the almost mythological sections devoted to an ancient whale who carried the Whale Rider long ago. Eight-year-old Kahu craves her great-grandfather's love and attention, but he is focused on his duties as chief of the Maori in New Zealand and has little time for her. She stands to be the heir of her kingdom, as there is no male to take over, and struggles to honor herself in the face of her tribe and grandfather despite her sex in this moving story of achievement." http://health.netezshop.com/personal-care/products/152050167.html

The success of the film Whale Rider was on the basis of the story, which Witi has written for his daughters. The young girls would get greater inspiration from the book as compared to the movie. The book provides much information on the Maori culture whereas the movie does not provide much information on the Maori culture. The events and circumstances which have been described in the story shows that the young girl had to face a lot of pressure but she managed to overcome all the difficulties and finally she got successful in her mission. All in all, it can be said that Whale Rider should be read and understood by the young girls so that they could get encouragement and inspiration from the struggle of the female protagonist.


The paper has reviewed the book "Whale Rider" by Ihimaera, the story have been widely appreciated and praised by the readers all around the world; especially the female readers are greatly inspired by the story of the book. The author has shown that the young girls should not lose confidence because of their gender, but they should move ahead in the positive direction and should make constant struggle. The main idea of the author is to provide…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

As retrieved from Whale Rider

http://www.computersupply-reviews.com/amazon/cheap-B0000CABBW.html. On May 2nd, 2004

As retrieved from The Whale Rider Witi Ihimaera Harcourt Paperback 168 pages May 2003 http://www.curledup.com/whalerid.htm. On May 2nd, 2004

As retrieved from The Whale Rider

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