James K Baxter is an influential New Zealand Poet who wrote in 1950’s and 60’s. In this time he enjoyed writing poetry to express his non-conformist ideas. Two examples of these poems are The Maori Jesus and Tomcat. In these poems, Baxter uses character as a tool to express his ideas. This is done through careful manipulation and development of the audience’s understanding of the two characters, then “Maori Jesus” and the “Tomcat”.
The Maori Jesus “wore blue dungarees, his beard and hair was long”, this introduction to the appearance of the Maori Jesus is in the first stanza of the poem and provides the audiences first impression. This is combative imagery which makes the audience think if a working class man in “blue dungarees”, therefore associating this Jesus figure as one of the people as opposed to the traditional Jesus figure. The audience opinion of the Maori Jesus is further developed when Baxter states “when he smiled it looked like the down/when he broke wind little fishes trembled”, this is balanced syntax which develops the balance the Maori Jesus has between spiritual power and natural connection. However, it also makes the audience look more fondly upon this alternative figure through the use of humour. This is important for James K Baxter’s purpose as he is encouraging the audience to look past appearances and respect figures even or perhaps move so if they appear scruffy or from a minority such as Maoris who were disrespected at the time (1950’s).
To further develop his expression of how he dislikes the treatment of minority groups, James K Baxter changes the tone of the poem The Maori Jesus drastically with the last stanza stating “the brain of god was cut in half”. This is shocking imagery for the audience and not an acceptable idea. This also contrasts with the Biblical allusions and the formal structure of the poem. This develops the character of Maori Jesus through both his natural connection and spiritual power. The...
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